This easy bread pudding recipe with plums and tarragon has a lot going for it. It’s a rustic dish with sophisticated flavors, it’s rich but there’s a tanginess that keeps it from being too rich, and it’s super easy to make ahead of time. Best of all, it really showcases the taste of the plums, which are a fleeting summer pleasure. And while this bread pudding delivers so many of the things I love about cheesecake, it’s a simple two-bowl recipe. You can thank me later.
As with french toast, thoroughly soggy bread is the key to deliciousness, so make sure that liquid covers the bread and that the bread has plenty of time to absorb the liquid. I find letting it soak for a hour or so gives the best results. If the bread takes in too much of the liquid during the soak, you can add more milk or cream to top it off.
Easy Bread Pudding with Plums, Lime and Tarragon
(adapted from “The River Cottage Cookbook” by Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall)
serves 3 or 4
However many ripe plums you have, but 9 large or 10 small is ideal
1 small loaf of stale-ish peasant bread
1 cup sugar, plus several spoonfuls for the plums
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups heavy cream
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon tarragon leaves, plus more for garnish
Butter a small baking dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse, halve and pit the plums. Lay skin side down in the baking dish and spoon 1/2 teaspoon of sugar into the centers. Bake just until the juices start to drip, 15 minutes. Set aside to cool for a few minutes, then carefully remove to a plate, being sure to also transfer any plum juice that has accumulated. At this point you can turn the oven off if you like.
Cut the crusts off the bread and cut into 1³ slices, or strips—whatever height will make them about 3/4″ lower than the top of the casserole. Generously butter the slices on both sides and set aside.
In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk the cup of sugar into the eggs, and keep whisking until things are well-combined. Constantly whisking, drizzle cream into the egg mixture. Add the zest and keep whisking for two or three minutes until you have a thin, airy custard. Let sit at room temperature while you deal with the bread.
Arrange the bread in the baking dish diagonally, like fallen dominoes. Tuck the cooled plum halves between each slice, toward the top. Slowly pour in some of the custard. Wait a while for the bread to absorb the liquid, then slowly add more. The longer this step takes—and especially if you have the time to wait for an hour or more—the more airy and delicate the pudding will be. Turn the oven to 350 degrees. When you think the pudding has absorbed all of the cream mixture it will take—-up to 1/4³ from the top, drizzle with the lime juice and reserved plum juices, sprinkle the tarragon on top, and put into the oven with a cookie sheet underneath.
Bake for 35 minutes, until the sides are set with a slightly jiggly center. Give the pudding some time to cool and set up, maybe an hour or two.