I tried to make my own bread a couple of weeks ago. Completely ignoring a couple tips I learned from one of my new cookbooks that told me to 1) always stick to the recipe exactly the first time I try it and 2) always try to use some combination of white and whole-wheat flour in bread recipes, at least until I've mastered the recipe on my own (hence tip #1). Listening to directions, namely those in recipe instructions, isn't on my list of strengths.
My bread turned out like this - kind of looks like a football? Yes - I tasted it because why wouldn't I? The flavor wasn't unusual, but because it didn't fluff up, the yeasty, bready, floury flavor seemed multiplied, too. Not my best flavor combination. With that, I decided to leave bread to the experts (a.k.a. my favorite local bakery) until I can humble myself in the kitchen enough to stick. to. the. recipe. If you're wondering what I do with all my recipe-test leftovers, I wrap them up and hand them out to community members who don't have homes or enough money to buy food for themselves. God called on me to start doing this a few months ago and it has healed me, too, more than I can even explain. I wish I could do justice in explaining how beautiful their grateful smiles are when I hand them whatever it is I have that day. It's the best part of the job.
Because I would never want to waste any good yeast, I used the other packet I'd purchased (intended for bread trial #2) for some more cinnamon rolls, which I baked in my kitchen's newest family member - my cast-iron skillet. While their freshly made, day-of texture came out just how I'd hoped, their day-after and two-days-after texture came out, well... hard. I'm still figuring out the science behind that one. As much as I would LOVE to pass out cinnamon rolls to my community members, I would hate to give anyone cinnamon rolls that sound like hockey pucks when tapped against my kitchen countertop.
Sooooo, what does one do with a rock-hard version of supposed-to-be-light-and-fluffy breakfast items? BREAD PUDDING. Or, cinnamon roll bread pudding, in this case. This time, I can justify my decision to not follow recipe instructions because I didn't have some of the main ingredients it called for - heavy cream (I don't think I've ever purchased that for my own use), butter (I ran out, thanks to the million cookies I made), and eggs (I had half of the amount the recipe called for). Oh, and I didn't have bread - duh - but that's where the cinnamon rolls come in.
Unlike homemade bread trial #1, homemade cinnamon-roll-bread-pudding trail #1 turned out duhhhh-liciously. Maybe it's just a dish that isn't hard to mess up, or maybe I do deserve a pat on my back for (almost) nailing it the first time around with about half of the ingredients the recipe called for. Again, I'm reminded of our individual roles in life - mine, at the moment at least, is not bread-making. Perhaps it's leftover-cinnamon-roll-bread-pudding-making, a role which one would not have to ask me twice to step into.
Clearly, this recipe calls for just bread because 1) I want to keep it simple, 2) I think my favorite local bakery deserves their own pat on the back for this magnificent loaf, and 3) I don't have any leftover cinnamon rolls at the moment. If you are fortunate enough to have some, feel free to toss those in instead of the bread cubes.
Makes 8-9 servings
4 cups cubed whole-grain bread (stale is best) (this is my favorite local bakery)
1 cup almond milk
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips
sea salt, for sprinkling
Oil or butter, for greasing the pan
Whisk together the eggs, almond milk, maple syrup/honey, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat. Soak for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F and grease an 8x8 baking dish with oil or butter.
Pour the soaked bread cubes with remaining liquid into the pan and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle dark chocolate chunks/chips on top and press them into the pan to ensure that they are evenly distributed throughout. Sprinkle sea salt on top.
Bake for 20 minutes covered (aluminum foil works) and 12-15 minutes uncovered, or until lightly browned and firm on top. Remove from oven cool before slicing and serving.