Bread pudding from a mix? What else do you need besides bread, melted butter, an egg, and milk? I was skeptical at first.

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[Photographs: Lucy Baker]

20100219-mixedreview2.jpgMardi Gras can get lost in the shuffle of holidays. All of a sudden "Fat Tuesday" has passed and you haven't celebrated. But it's not too late, and what better way than with a delicious Southern-style bread pudding?

With Bruce's Bread Pudding Mix ($4.99), you'll be digging into a bowl of warm, gooey deliciousness that'll transport you to the bayou in under an hour.

Founded in 1928, Bruce's Foods is best-known for their famous "original" Louisiana hot sauce, but they make a wide range of other food products as well. As enticing as the photo on the package was, at first I was skeptical of bread pudding from a mix.

The list of "additional ingredients" included bread, melted butter, an egg, and milk. Aside from sugar, what was left? This was bread pudding after all, not French pastry.

Assembling the pudding took less than five minutes. All I had to do was tear a loaf of crusty bread into one-inch pieces (the box calls for "one-third of a loaf" but doesn't specify how many cups. I ended up using an entire small loaf, which totaled about eight cups). Then I dumped them into a bowl and stirred in the mix (a combination of sugar, cinnamon, flour, and vanilla), one egg, 1/4 cup of melted butter, and 1 3/4 cups of milk.

I spread the mixture into an 8x8-inch pan and, though the instructions didn't call for it, I covered the pan with a layer of aluminum foil to prevent the top from drying out or, even worse, burning. I slid the pudding into a 350°F oven and baked it for 40 minutes, then removed the foil and baked it for another 10 minutes, just until the surface was nicely toasted.

One of my biggest baking mix pet peeves is when it's supposed to be quick and easy but the box includes an additional "suggested" recipe for a made-from-scratch sauce or frosting. If I'm baking a cake from a box, I want a frosting from a jar. And if I bake bread pudding from a mix, I don't want to make a rum sauce from scratch. For this reason, I opted for a bottle of chocolate sauce over Bruce's recipe. Vanilla ice cream would also work nicely.

Even without the homemade rum sauce, Bruce's Bread Pudding was addictively delicious. After polishing off a generous bowl, I still couldn't help "neatening the edges" of the pan before storing the leftovers in the fridge.

Sometimes bread pudding can be too goopy, but this one was pleasingly chewy. Each bite was laced with a generous amount of cinnamon-spiked syrup. I would highly recommend Bruce's Bread Pudding for your next "Fat Tuesday" celebration, or any other Tuesday for that matter

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