Greetings! This is a bread pudding version of a French dish that is basically a ham and cheese sandwich served hot with extra cheese, a Bechamel sauce, and a sunny side egg on top. I wanted to make a bread pudding recipe that looked more orderly and layered the bread with the other ingredients, rather than one that utilized cubed bread with other cubed ingredients.
This would be a good recipe to use if you are short on time and want to make ahead something the night before that you don’t have to fuss over too much in the morning. Also, you could just skip serving sunny side eggs on top, which would make it a croque monsieur bread pudding.
This is a fairly decadent meal, even by itself. The blending of the runny egg yolk with the melted cheese and the Bechamel sauce is so good with the sweet, salty ham and the slight crispness of the bread saturated with the custardy, egg/milk mixture. You can either make your own bread for this or use store bought bread. You may want to use an enriched bread like Challah or Brioche, just make sure it is day old and somewhat stale so it can absorb the egg/milk mixture.
I assembled it the night before and let it sit in the refrigerator for several hours before baking, but you can probably get away with baking it off after less sitting time, I’m just not sure how it would turn out if you didn’t give it time to sit at all.
Also, you may notice that I left out specific weights or amounts of the ham or cheese for the layers because these amounts may vary depending on the size or thickness of the bread slices you use and the dimensions of the loaf pan you use, so you’ll want to plan accordingly, maybe dividing the amounts of ham and cheese into 2 or 3 portions depending on how many layers of each you want.
Also, the next day when we had leftovers, I reheated each slice in our air fryer, which made it surprisingly crisp and not rubbery or heavy at all, so if you have leftovers of this and an air fryer, I highly recommend using it to reheat the slices at 360 degrees for about 12-14 minutes. They look really toasted here, but they were surprisingly light and fluffy and moist inside, still. I decided to not add more Bechamel or cheese and to have them as croque monsieur so you can see the layers.
croque madame bread pudding (inspired by this recipe)
unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
5 large eggs
1 and 1/4 cups whole milk
pinch salt/white pepper
1 recipe bechamel sauce (see below)
1 loaf of sliced challah bread or other enriched dough bread, about 10-12 slices
8-10 ounces gruyere, grated
8-10 ounces black forest ham, sliced thinly
dijon mustard, to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 and 1/2 cups whole milk
freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup grated gruyere
Combine the eggs and milk, salt/pepper and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Make the bechamel sauce: Place 3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small saucepan on medium high heat until melted. Add the garlic and let cook a little, about a minute, stirring, then add the flour and whisk it for about a minute again, then slowly add the milk, constantly stirring until thickened, a few minutes. Remove from heat when thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt/white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Add about 1/4 cup of the gruyere and stir until the cheese has melted and is smooth. Set aside.
Grease a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan liberally with room temperature butter. Place two slices of the challah bread along the bottom of the pan and cut or tear small pieces of a third slice of bread to fit any gaps created by the placement of the first two slices. Try to use the crust part of a slice for the outer edges facing the pan side.
Pour about 1/3 cup or more of the egg/milk mixture over the bread slices, just enough to saturate the slices with the egg/milk mixture.
Slather a little of the bechamel sauce, just enough to cover the top surface of all the bread. Lay ham slices over the bechamel, cutting up more ham similarly to how you cut up more bread to fill any gaps or spaces.
Top with a generous amount of the grated gruyere cheese.
Slather mustard on two slices of challah and lay each of them, mustard side down, over the cheese.
Similarly to the first layer, use more cut up bread to fill any gaps on this second bread layer, also dabbing each piece of bread with mustard and placing it mustard side down over the cheese. Pour a little more of the egg/milk mixture over the entire second layer of bread.
Repeat with another third cup of the bechamel sauce, letting it soak into the second layer of bread.
Repeat the ham and cheese layers.
Slather another two slices of challah with mustard again, then place mustard side down again, and also using any cut up bread to fit any gaps between the slices.
Add the rest of the egg/milk mixture. Press down on the top surface of bread to ensure that it is even and that all the liquid is going to be absorbed into the bread like a sponge.
Reserve the remaining bechamel sauce and remaining cheese by covering them and placing in the refrigerator.
Cover the top of the loaf pan with foil and refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Take out the covered loaf from the refrigerator and let sit on a counter to warm up a little, about 45-60 minutes.
Bake for about 45 minutes, still covered with the foil, followed by another 30-45 minutes, uncovered, until top (which will be the bottom) is browned a little. The internal temperature should be 165 degrees F. when ready.
Remove from oven and let sit on a wire rack still in the pan to cool for about an hour.
Set oven to the broil mode. Unmold the bread pudding by first using a thin knife or spatula around the edges to loosen any parts that are sticking to the pan and invert the pan onto a foil or parchment lined baking sheet, then lift the pan, turning the bread pudding loaf upside down. The bottom is now the top.
Add more Bechamel sauce and more gruyere on top if desired and place in the oven to broil until the top is lightly browned.
Fry some sunny side eggs to place on top as well as to serve with each slice, or simply leave out the fried eggs for a croque monsieur version.
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