poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

January 14, 2012

RECIPE: Grandma Maxine’s and Tiana’s Bread Pudding

My late mother worked as a cook in a Seattle department store and taught me how to cook when I was 7 or 8 years old. To carry on her legacy and traditions, I’ll try to periodically post some favorite recipes that parent(s) and child(ren) can make together. My daughter did not know what bread pudding was until we baked this together and now she loves it.

Grandma Maxine & Tiana’s Bread Pudding

by Emily P. Lawsin

My sister’s African American mother-in-law, who moved from the South to Michigan decades ago, showed me how to make bread pudding one day from whatever my sister had in her kitchen. Last year, on a trip to New Orleans, my 5-year-old daughter found The Princess & The Frog: Tiana’s Cookbook Recipes for Kids, which she loves. Her favorite summertime recipe in that book is “Juju’s Juleps” (a ginger ale-limeade like a virgin Mint Julep). Today was a snowy day in Detroit (the first all year), so we decided to try a blend of Tiana’s “Bayou Bread Pudding” and Grandma Maxine’s recipes, with whatever we had available in our kitchen. If you want to make it the Tiana/New Orleans way, you would use  pineapple cubes and raisins (instead of pears/apples), and a greased 8-inch square metal baking pan so it will crisp. We like it to be more pudding moist, so we bake it in a Pyrex dish placed in a water bath. Today we had chocolate chips in the cupboad, so we sprinkled some in with thin slices of apple on top (we also used chocolate soy milk at daughter’s request instead of cow’s milk and it worked ok). We hope you enjoy making this as much as we did.


8 slices firm/dry bread, cut in 1-inch cubes or diagonals (our favorite bread to use is Avalon International Bread‘s Challah bread or their Cranberry Orange bread, but you can use stale white or French bread. To add a bit of Filipino flavor, I would use stale Pan de Sal, Pan de Leche, or stale King’s Hawaiian Rolls. )

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch of salt

2 large apples or pears, cubed or sliced in triangles (if making for adults, can soak these in rum or bourbon; for a Filipino flavor, use sliced fresh or jarred mangoes)

2 cups milk (or Half and Half, or Cream if you want it really rich)

5 Tablespoons butter, melted

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar (or granulated white is fine)

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping: Whipped Cream or Caramel sauce (we like Sanders Butterscotch Caramel, a Detroit classic. You can add bourbon to this for an adult treat.)



1.  Heat the oven to 350ºF. Have ready a deep casserole dish or 10-inch deep pie plate and a large roasting pan (for the water bath).

2. Toss bread cubes, pears, salt, nutmeg and ½ teaspoon cinnamon in the casserole dish, making sure to distribute salt and nutmeg evenly.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk remaining ingredients (melted butter, milk, eggs, vanilla, ½ teaspoon cinnamon). Add sugar and whisk until blended. (You can also mix in a tablespoon of rum or bourbon for a rich, adult treat.) Carefully and evenly pour over the bread and pears.

4. Place casserole dish in the roasting pan. Add hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the casserole dish.

5. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from water to cool on a rack. Cut in squares and serve warm or cold, topped with caramel sauce or whipped cream. (Remember to refrigerate any left-overs, if you have any.)

Serves: 10.

Here are some photos of  the Chocolate Apple Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce that we made today, along with photos of the bread pudding I ate in New Orleans, at Mother’s Restaurant (which used a Karo syrup kind of topping) and the Sheraton Hotel’s Pelican Bar (which used a condensed milk kind of topping AND whipped cream). If you try our recipe, please post a comment below. Salamat=Thanks!



  1. thank you! i bought the apples and pears the night you posted that you were going to make it and have been procrastinating because i wasn’t sure about the recipe to use…apparently i need to buy a tiara also. thank you so much for sharing your family “secrets”. i also have fond memories of learning how to cook from my mother/italian godmother/random other female mentors. love ya sister emily.

    Comment by Gerie V. — January 14, 2012 @ 9:03 pm | Reply

    • Dear Gerie,
      YAY! Glad you’re willing to try it. Sorry for the delay in posting. I should add that if you soak the pears or apples in some rum or bourbon while you’re mixing the rest, that might taste good too. LOL about the tiara, I know. Please post a comment back here to let us know how yours turns out. Love ya too, sistahfriend! ~Emily 🙂

      Comment by Emily Lawsin — January 14, 2012 @ 8:25 pm | Reply

  2. Mama Maxine just read your blog and recipe, she so excited to see that you shared this ln the “internet”

    Comment by Carmelita Bridges — January 14, 2012 @ 8:43 pm | Reply

  3. Ok, wow. Let me make this quick because I need to go get another helping: had a lot of stale bread so used a large rectangular pyrex dish. had to do math and add more eggs and milk. added raisins at request of bf. don’t have any caramel sauce and gonna go google that. but it is _so good_ and yummy! will definitely add this to my small book of favorite recipes. Thank you to Grandma Maxine, Miss Tiana and Miss Emily for sharing the food love.

    Comment by Gerie V. — January 15, 2012 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

    • Dear Gerie,
      YAY! So glad it turned out! Yeah, for more bread and a 13×9 Pyrex dish, you probably would need one more egg and 1/2 cup more of milk, and more cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg. I’m gonna amend the recipe because I forgot to say that in addition to soy milk, you can use half-and-half or cream instead of the milk, depending on how rich you want it. If you don’t have caramel sauce, but you DO have bourbon (or Baileys or Rum), you can make a bourbon syrup for the topping if you think it needs it: In a medium saucepan, whisk 1 cup granulated sugar and ½ cup softened butter over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool slightly. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, stirring until combined. Add 1/3 cup bourbon, stir until smooth. Enjoy! xoxo ~Em

      Comment by Emily Lawsin — January 15, 2012 @ 5:21 pm | Reply

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