Savory Bread Pudding with Focaccia, Caramelized Onions, and Mushrooms

Do you have left over focaccia from earlier this week? If not, you can always make more and make sure to save about a half of the pan for this delicious savory bread pudding recipe. It’s a take on the classic sweet dessert bread pudding, which is usually served with ice cream or whiskey caramel sauce. But since we made focaccia a few days ago, let’s build off that for this beautiful side or whole meal in and of itself.

What you’ll need is:

  • 1/2 a pan of slightly stale focaccia
  • 1 large yellow or white onion
  • 1/2 a stick of butter (4 TB)
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 4 oz. of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream or whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese (I used cheddar and cream cheese, because it’s what I had, but goat or gruyere or parm or anything else works, too!)
  • 3 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste

First, you’ll want to take your cream or milk, your shredded cheese, and your eggs and whisk them together in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper. After you do this, set it aside, and dice your remaining focaccia up into 1/2 inch squares. Soak the bread in the milk, egg, and cheese mixture and refrigerate while you move onto the next step.

Have you ever caramelized onions before? If not, now is the perfect time to do it, because it requires time and patience. It takes forever! But I promise it is worth it!

Take your half stick of butter and 1/4 cup of olive oil (yes, you want this much fat in this part) and put them in a pan at very low heat. The lowest you can get. Slice your onion and add it to the pan. Cook it low and slow for about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring it occasionally. You want the onions to sweat in the butter first, to release moisture, then gently sautee.

sweated onions
caramelized onion

Eventually, they’ll become slightly browned and translucent and delicious. It takes a long time, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll want caramelized onions on everything.

Sautee the mushrooms in a little olive oil. When everything is caramelized and sauteed, mix it in with the bread pieces and milk mixture in the bowl. I portioned the recipe out into a muffin tin sprayed with olive oil, and topped with a pat of cream cheese, because who doesn’t want a tiny personal bread puddings? You can also use a larger pan or casserole dish, though. Do remember to grease the pan first! Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes in individual portions, and about an hour for one big portion. The top should be crispy and the bottom solid.

I want to note that the only vital part of this recipe is the bread and the milk/egg/cheese mixture, not the mushrooms and onion, and that you should feel free to put anything else savory into it. Try chili peppers, or herbs, or tomato, or kale, or whatever you like. The most fun part of baking, I think, is in the places you get to flex your creativity. So use those creative cooking muscles and change this recipe how ever you want!

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