Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Bread Pudding

It’s such a cliché to talk about time passing in the blink of an eye and how the years creep up on you and before you know it, you’re old. Yada yada. I’m getting bored just typing those trite phrases.


It feels a bit like a sucker punch to your gut to realize that- man, oh man- you really are getting old. Eric and I joke about it all the time- constantly telling one another that we’re not getting any younger. Sort of like if we just keep making light of it, somehow we’ll keep old age at bay.

While I know that’s not possible, seeing glaring evidence of your advancing age is hard to face. Nothing quite reminds you that you’re getting older like seeing someone you only remember as a small child now old enough to vote.

I experienced this recently when, after meaning to do so since its release, I finally picked up a copy of Hot & Hot Fish Club- A Celebration of Food, Family, and Traditions. I worked for Chris and Idie Hastings, the owners of Hot & Hot Fish Club, while in graduate school in Birmingham, AL. I started not too long after the restaurant opened; in fact, I think I was the very first hostess hired. Way back when female hosts were still called hostesses.

It’s been many years since I’ve seen Chris and Idie as I don’t get back to B’ham very often. Funny thing, though, when looking over the lovely pictures in the book, it didn’t appear that Chris and Idie had aged a bit. They both still look just as I remembered them.

But their sons… my jaw practically dropped when I saw pictures of them and realized they’re now grown up.

When I worked at H&H, Idie would occasionally bring the boys in to visit. I don’t remember exactly how old they were but I’d guess 2-3 and maybe 4 years, young enough to be carried around on Chris’s shoulders. I was astonished to see that they’re now as tall as he is.

Time marches on, doesn't it? Most days I don't mind but some days I just don't like it. Thankfully, my disgruntledness with this fact of life was easily abated. There's not much that can't be fixed by the warm comfort and rich satisfaction of bread pudding.

Strawberry Rhubarb Bread Pudding
adapted from Hot & Hot Fish Club- A Celebration of Food, Family, and Traditions

I adapted H&H’s raspberry, white chocolate bread pudding recipe to make a lighter (well, as light as bread pudding gets), spring fruit version by subbing half-n-half for heavy cream and leaving out the white chocolate. I’m happy to report the strawberries I planted ripened up and turned a lovely bright red. While they were sweet and juicy, they weren’t particularly plentiful. I used the few that grew in this pudding but I had to supplement them with berries bought at the market. And I’m still on the hunt for that elusive, locally grown rhubarb I keep hearing about. It wasn’t at the market the weekend I planned to bake so I used Washington State, hot house grown rhubarb.

2 c heavy cream or half-n-half
1/2 c plus 3 T granulated sugar, divided
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 (16 ounce) fresh French baguette, cut into 1/2” squares
8 ounces fresh strawberries, sliced
8 ounces fresh rhubarb, sliced
1 T unsalted butter, room temp
1 c fresh whipped cream for topping

1. Combine the cream or half-n-half and 1/2 cup of sugar in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Add scraped vanilla beans and pod to cream mixture and bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and set aside. Allow to cool until warm to the touch.
2. Whisk the lightly beaten eggs into the warm cream mixture. Set aside to fully cool. Add the bread cubes and approximately three-fourths of the chopped fresh fruit to a large mixing bowl and pour in the custard mixture. Stir to mix. Press a piece of saran wrap directly on top of the pudding mixture and then use another small bowl nested in the mixing bowl to weight down the bread cubes so that they full soak in the custard. Allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 350˚ Fahrenheit. Grease an 8 x 8” baking dish with butter and sprinkle in the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, turning on all sides to ensure that the dish is evenly coated. Spoon the pudding mixture into the dish and pour any remaining custard over the top. Top the pudding with the remaining one-fourth of the fresh fruit. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and set inside a larger baking pan or dish filled with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the pudding dish. Bake for 25 minutes. Take the pudding from the oven and remove the foil cover.
4. Increase the oven temperature to 375˚ Fahrenheit and return the pudding to the oven, and bake for another 35 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown. Remove from the water bath and set aside on a rack to cool slightly. Carefully remove the water-filled baking dish from the oven, discard the water, and set the dish aside to cool.
5. Cut the cooled bread pudding into equal squares and serve warm, topped with 1 to 2 tablespoons of freshly whipped cream.


  1. I know all about time marching quickly...and how some moments should forever stand still. Your bread pudding looks unbelievable...I still have a ziploc of last year's rhubarb crop that needs to be used up before the ruby red stalks poke through (soon!) I'm all over anything that starts with bread and ends in pudding!

  2. Shelley! Fantastic post... and your bread pudding looks amazingly delicious. I didn't know you used to work @ H&H! I remember when it opened and was in there alot. Funny! Love that you used half-n-half for this...perfect dessert for spring! You have inspired me to get this book out again!

  3. Here you go with the rhubarb again :) Am I really going to have to try it? You just keep on tempting me! I love stopping by your blog.

  4. This really looks delicious. I love rhubarb and have never had a bread pudding I didn't like. I love the combination. I hope you have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  5. Man, it was hard reading about how time marches on and seeing more of my friends popping out kiddos and getting married who are up to 4-6 years younger than me. It started to crowd me in while reading your entry and by the time you gave us the recipe for this amazing pudding, I was about ready to swim in it. For comfort.

  6. Shelley, this looks SO very good! I love, love bread pudding, but have never had it with strawberries and rhubarb. It must be wonderful. I know how you feel about time marching on - children always are our barometer of time, aren't they? With the news of those devastating tornados hitting the South, I hope your friends are all okay. Bread pudding is a perfect comfort food.

  7. Shelly I totally get what you're talking about. We don't have kids but since I work with the public I encounter all sorts of people from all age gruops. I've started thinking of people in their twenties as "kids" which I know is wrong and I have to stop. I asked my mother about it recently and she said that she still thinks of me as a "kid." Sounds like it just gets worse with age.

    By the way, I've never met a bread pudding that I didn't like.

  8. Oh man. I know what you mean. I'm the one not getting any younger. My little baby is aging me decades!

    The cookbook sounds great and I have tons of rhubarb on hand right now.....

  9. I know just what you mean about time rushing by and realizing we're not so young anymore. I can hardly believe I have a kid who'll be going to college this fall. (How did that happen??) Anyway, just discovered your gorgeous blog and look forward to many future visits. This bright and fruity bread pudding is wonderful. Love your photos, too!

  10. That looks like perfection, a fabulous summer treat.
    Yes, it does TOTALLY suck realizing you are getting older, but you gotta consider, its better than the alternative (death!).
    Life is short, eat cake.
    *kisses* HH

  11. a very delicious combination for this bread pudding, love it

  12. I finally found some of that elusive local rhubarb, but it wasn't as pretty and red as yours. How cool that you worked at H&H. I've been wanting that book since it came out, and I've never even been there. Your bread pudding looks great with the strawberries and rhubarb, and I like the idea of lightening it up!

  13. Your bread pudding with strawberries and rhubarb looks delicious, so pretty the color, and I love it with whipped cream on it. Have a great week ahead Shelley :-)

  14. Its amazing to see little kids when they grow up, isn't it? You feel a little protective...
    The strawberry and rhubarb bread pudding looks wonderful...such lovely color. I've really, really got to get my hands on rhubarb this spring!

  15. Oh my goodness - I wish I had some of this for dessert right now!

  16. You know, we can not change it, so make the best of it every single day. Just turned 35 and I think it hit me harder than my 30th birthday! So more play, less work from now on!
    And this bread pudding, of course, makes it easier to deal with this fact:)

  17. Thanks all! You made me feel much better- even better than 2 helpings of bread pudding! Glad to know we all feel this way sometimes...