The Flaky Pastry That Takes Ina Garten's Bread Pudding Over The Top

Ina Garten smiling with blue scarf
Ina Garten smiling with blue scarf - Noam Galai/Getty Images

Bread pudding has come a long way from its original inception as a method for 11th century cooks to make use of stale bread. These days, the unique dessert, which marries baked goods with creamy custard in order to create a moist, cake-like "pudding," is as prized a dish as you can get -- in all its forms.

By its very nature, bread pudding is extremely versatile, and lends itself well to all sorts of variations and customizations. You can make it with simple sliced bread, as we do in our Rich Bread Pudding recipe, or use fluffy cinnamon rolls as your base, like Tasting Table recipe developer Jessica Morone suggests in this Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding dish. And while there are a bunch of mouthwatering ingredients you can incorporate into bread pudding to take it to the next level, we're here to talk about the one substitution that might forever change the way you make it. One word, folks: Croissants.

The flaky French pastries are, in fact, the secret behind Ina Garten's famous version of bread pudding, which she originally featured in her 1999 cookbook, "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook." And if you know Garten, you know that she never misses in the kitchen. When combined with rich, eggy vanilla custard and sweet, chewy raisins, the airy pastries get new life as a decadent dessert sure to impress a crowd. It's no wonder Garten claims that this dish is a favorite among her friends.

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Croissants Are Light And Absorbent, Making Them Great For Bread Pudding

Croissant bread pudding
Croissant bread pudding - Simon C Jacobs/Shutterstock

In an episode of "Barefoot Contessa," the Food Network star explains that she decided to try croissants in her bread pudding because they're lighter and more airy than the dense bread typically used in the dessert. Indeed, those thin, buttery layers and honeycomb center make the pastries particularly primed for soaking up all that creamy custard while they bake.

Now, while you may be inclined to pop a fresh batch of croissants straight into your baking pan for this dish, Ina Garten actually recommends waiting until the pastries are slightly stale, in which case they'll be drier and even better able to absorb the liquid component of the pudding. Since croissants are notorious for going stale quickly, turning them into moist bread pudding is, indeed, the perfect way to revive them. (Those 11th century cooks really were onto something!)

Given the lightness and absorbency of the croissants, the resulting bread pudding should see them puff up and brown to perfection, with a rich, custardy center flavored by any spices or toppings you wish to add. You can easily swap out Garten's vanilla for warm notes of nutmeg and cinnamon, replace the raisins with crunchy pecans, and even top it all off with a sweet glaze, like the one we use in our aforementioned cinnamon roll version. Like we said, the customization options are endless, but if you take Garten's advice and use croissants as your base, your bread pudding is sure to be a hit every time.

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