Contemporary versions of this dish vary in texture, from mushy, sweetened porridge to chewy, desiccated cousins of overcooked holiday stuffing. The folks at America's Test Kitchen wanted a dessert cart–worthy dish as refined as any French soufflé: a moist, creamy (but not eggy) interior and a crisp top crust.
For the bread, they chose challah for its rich flavor, cut it into cubes, toasted them until lightly browned, and soaked the cubes with a batch of basic custard. But the first round of testing drew complaints from testers that it was too eggy. It turns out that eggy flavor comes from the sulfur compounds in egg whites, so ATK got rid of the whites and just used the yolks. The result? A luscious, silky custard with no trace of egginess.
For a crackly crust, ATK dotted the top of the pudding with additional toasted bread cubes before baking. After brushing the surface with melted butter and sprinkling the dish with a flavorful mixture of white and brown sugar, it was into the oven. The crunchy, buttery, sugary crust was the perfect partner to the satiny-smooth custard that lay below.
Watch the video above for the technique, then visit America's Test Kitchen for the recipe. (Free registration required.)