Goan Bread Pudding from Grandma’s Kitchen

This dessert offers a comforting food hug.

Annabelle D’Costa

My mother tells me of a dessert that is a hot fave in most Goan households. She says it tastes best when made with stale bread and that it requires no oven. Each time she tells me how her grandmother made bread pudding, I find myself dreaming of this moist pudding with just the right amount of sweet custard and caramel sauce.

A centuries-old dish, the bread pudding has humble roots, and is said to have evolved out of necessity, as a means of using up leftover, stale bread. It is considered a good throw-together dessert using what is available in any non-baker’s pantry. Interestingly, modern-day bread puddings are made from artisanal breads, like brioche or whole-grain and multi-grain loaves and at times even croissants, which drastically deviates from the dish’s austere origins.

Besides the bread, other ingredients such as milk, cream, eggs, a fat such as an oil or butter, sugar or other sweeteners, a few spices  such as cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla—find their way into this comfort food. From there you can get as creative as you like. The best thing is you don’t have to look far for a good version, defined as a moist, creamy (but not eggy) interior and a crisp top crust. It can be found in my nana’s kitchen. Here’s her recipe:

Step 1:

In a small non-stick pan, add around 4-5 tablespoons of sugar and add enough water so as to not dilute the sugar while at the same time not leaving it at just a few drops. On a medium-low heat, keep stirring till the sugar melts and caramelizes. Keep aside.  

Step 2:

Add around 7-8 tablespoons of sugar to about 4 cups of milk of your choice. We haven’t really experimented with dairy-free milk yet, so tread with caution. Give this a good stir before bringing the milk to a boil. Take off heat add a pinch of salt, 3-4 whole cardamom pods and then soak 3-4 of your paos or bread slices in the milk till it cools.

Step 3:

Ditch the ladle and instead use your hands to mash the bread well. Next, add about two to three beaten eggs. Mom tells me that when she tried imitating grandma’s pudding, she couldn’t master the custard. It would either curdle or not set up properly. Usually adding another egg or two would help, but give the pudding an eggy flavour. The cardamom pods and vanilla essence act as an egg-masking agent. However, grandma shares that the best way to go about this is by getting rid of the egg whites and just using the yolks. Doing so will still help you achieve a rich, silky custardy pudding with no trace of that eggy flavour.

Step 4:

When the bread has soaked enough in the custard, pour this mixture in the caramelized dish. Cover with the lid, and place this in a water bath before steaming it on a stove for a little more than half an hour. You could also modernize things up by instead pouring the batter onto a baking dish and popping it into an oven and letting it bake for about 40 mins at 176-degree celsius.  

Step 5:

Let it cool completely and then chill, before carefully flipping it on a serving plate. At our home, we prefer having it chilled with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. However, on a cold winter or rainy night, nothing like biting into a warm slice of nana’s homemade pudding. 


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