If you've ever "accidentally" poured maple syrup on your sausage, or ordered pigs in a blanket at your local greasy spoon, you know the gustatory pleasures where sweet and savory intersect. Like jumping into an ice-cold lake after a stint in the sauna or leaping from a plane with nothing but a sheet of silk strapped to your back, there's something about contrasts that heightens your senses and makes you feel alive.
I love bread puddings because they use up stale bread and are ridiculously simple to prepare. Depending on what you put into them they're versatile enough to make the transition from dessert to dinner side dish. I've even been known to serve a savory bread pudding for brunch. But I've never done breakfast bread pudding, an oversight I knew I'd have to correct the moment it registered.
Gears set in motion, I started to contemplate what a breakfast bread pudding would be like? French toast immediately came to mind as the closest breakfast proxy. It doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to start thinking of all the tasty variations on french toast you could do with scraps of bread and a casserole dish. Vanilla beans, dried cranberries, and candied orange peels all seemed like safe bets, but for me, breakfast is about a balance of sweet and savory and this was starting to sound like a recipe for dessert.
Thats when I started thinking about the components in my perfect breakfast. Eggs? Sausage? Maple syrup? Check! Check! Check! Then I remembered a french toast I once made with cheese bread. Sweet, savory and with crisp bits of cheese oozing out around the edges. CHECK!
Concept finished, I set about making it happen. It's not effortless, but there's nothing complicated about it, and with a little forethought on a Saturday night, you can wake up to this delight on Sunday morning.
At the surface it looks like an ordinary bread pudding with a crusty top marked with fountains of crisp cheese bubbling up from beneath, like cooling lava. But dig in and you'll reveal something more magical. Custardy chunks of french toast with meaty nuggets of sausage and veins of sharp golden cheddar coursing through it. Sweet and savory, creamy yet sharp, crisp but tender; it's like a symphony of contrasts that's so wrong and yet so right.
- If you're sausage is in casings, squeeze them out of their casings. Heat a frying pan over medium high heat and cook the sausage, breaking it up into bite-sized chunks, but do not crumble it up too small. Dump the cooked sausage into a metal strainer over the sink to drain off any excess oil and allow it to cool completely.
- Cut the cheddar into ¼-inch cubes. You can also shred it using a cheese grater, but I like having visible chunks of melted cheddar.
- In a large bowl, add the eggs, milk, cream, and maple syrup into a bowl and whisk together until smooth.
- Cut the stale bread into 1 1/2-inch cubes and add it to the egg mixture along with the cooled sausage and cubed cheddar. Gently mix everything together until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the bread and then transfer the mixture to an oven safe casserole dish.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- The next morning, remove the casserole from the fridge. Put the oven rack in the middle position and pre-heat to 350 degrees F (170 C).
- Remove the cover and bake the bread pudding until browned on top (about 30-40 minutes).
- Drizzle with maple syrup and serve hot.