Q: While my mother was visiting me here in Chicago, my partner and I took her for breakfast at Pauline's in the Andersonville area and she was very enamored with the French bread pudding toast. She was wondering if there was any way that she could obtain the recipe. If at all possible, would you be able to check to see if the folks at Pauline's would be willing to share it with one of your readers?
—David Dempsey, Chicago
A: I not only called Pauline's to inquire about the dish, I went up to the 1754 W. Balmoral Ave. restaurant and ordered it. Delicious; I can see why your mom wants the recipe.
This breakfast and lunch spot is known, famously, for its five-egg omelets. I will confess to wondering how I'd be able to finish a plate described as: "Super-rich baked homemade bread pudding mixed with selection of fresh fruits, then dipped in our French toast batter. Topped with our homemade strawberry-rhubarb preserve, fresh strawberries and whipped cream." The serving was generous but surprisingly light. It fueled a subsequent 5-mile walk through Andersonville and Edgewater.
"It's one of our signature dishes,'' said Kathy Henning, proprietor of the popular breakfast and lunch spot. She hesitated at first in divulging the recipe.
"If we shared it, everyone would be making it," she said. Not quite, I told her, as many people out there won't make a bread pudding and turn it into French toast. Henning thought it over and relented.
The recipe is below — but be warned: It makes a restaurant-size amount. You'll need 4 loaves of sandwich bread, 1 quart of heavy whipping cream, 2 dozen eggs and a pan "like the one you can cook your turkey in," Henning said. She doesn't include specific instructions on how to caramelize the cubed apples or how to make a French toast batter. Nor does she include recipes for the strawberry-rhubarb preserve or whipped cream.
I wouldn't sweat these omissions too much. Use your favorite French toast batter or pull one out of a cookbook. Replace the strawberry-rhubarb preserve with commercially available one in your favorite flavor, and various berries or orange segments could substitute for the fresh strawberries. Canned, ready-made whipped cream can be used, but homemade is so easy to do. Again, consult your favorite cookbook.
Pauline's was founded in 1996 by Pauline and Ron Messier. Pauline died in 2010, Ron in 2011.
"This was Ron's grandmother's recipe,'' Henning wrote in emailing the recipe. "There were lots of mouths to feed in the Messier home in 1940. Ron had seven brothers and sisters. This was originally made with day old bread, milk, eggs and cinnamon. The whole family had plenty to eat."
Believe me, your mom will have plenty to eat if she makes this recipe, too. The neat thing is the bread pudding is made ahead and refrigerated until you're ready to make the French toast. This recipe could certainly feed a crowd at one big brunch blow-out or you could offer it at a series of smaller breakfasts during the week.
French bread pudding
This recipe from Pauline's restaurant makes a hefty quantity; owner Kathy Henning said it could be halved. Henning bakes the bread pudding in a disposable aluminum roasting pan. You'll also need to caramelize the apples; she recommends slicing the fruit, seasoning with cinnamon, and cooking slowly in butter until soft. Make a French toast batter with which to finish the dish.
4 16-ounce loaves bread, one should be raisin bread (standard)
2 dozen eggs
1 quart heavy whipping cream
3 cups cranberries
3 cups caramelized apples
1/2 cup of nutmeg
1/2 cup of cinnamon
Prepared French toast batter
1.Dice the bread; place in a large bowl.
2.Crack all the eggs into a second bowl; mix well. Pour the eggs and the heavy whipping cream into the dice bread. Combine. Stir in 3 cups each cranberries and cubed apples. Mix. Add 1/2 cup nutmeg. Mix well.
3.Pack the bread mixture into a large roasting pan, pressing down firmly. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cinnamon on top.
4.Bake bread pudding in a 375-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until firm, olden and cooked through. Use a skewer to test for doneness as though checking a cake. Let the bread pudding cool for several hours or overnight. Once cooled, cut into slices.
5.When ready to serve, dip the slices into French toast batter and cook in a very lightly greased skillet or griddle until the batter is lightly golden, about a minute or two per side. Serve.
Do you have a question about food or drink? E-mail Bill Daley at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611. Twitter @billdaley.