Savory bread puddings [and stratas] are my comfort food alternative to Mac + Cheese.
In the shop where we received fresh bread deliveries each day, it became a way to get creative with the random items in our home refrigerator while using any unsold bread at the end of the day. So what’s the difference between a savory bread pudding and a strata you ask? As far as I can tell, nothing. One of the best things about them, is that once you’ve found a milk, bread and egg ratio that you like, it’s the base for any flavor profile that strikes your fancy and can serve as an entire meal. In this recipe, I am using cheese, but no herbs, veggies or meat. I want to showcase the Vlaskass which is a creamy Dutch gouda, [available at most cheese shops and specialty food grocers] and I’m adding crème fraiche for extra richness.
Not only is this dish bursting with the salty sweet flavor of the gouda, but it is also a textural treat, as you’ve got the salty crisp bits up top, the custard soaked interior which takes on a brioche-like texture and just enough melted goodness pooling at the bottom to excite you. I do have a suggestion: if you are new to stratas and bread puddings, make this recipe just as written. It will be a good measure of flavor and texture on which to build your future creations. Be sure to use a really nice crusty artisan baguette!
2 cups whole milk
4 oz crème fraiche
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 full size crusty baguette, cut into 1 inch chunks [7-8 cups]
1 T butter [for baking dish]
12 oz Vlaskaas [remove rind and shred]
In large mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, crème fraiche, S + P and whisk until combined. Cut the baguette into 1 inch chunks and add to the egg mixture. Toss until combined and allow bread to soak up the liquid for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400. Generously butter a souffle or casserole dish. Begin layering by adding 1/3 of the bread mixture into baking dish, followed by 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat steps twice, sprinkling the last 1/3 of the cheese on top. Bake at 400 for 35-40 min until top is puffy and golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.