Keys to moist bread pudding: Custard and type of bread

By America’S Test Kitchen The Associated Press

America’s Test Kitchen’s slow-cooker bread pudding boasts tender bread cubes enveloped by a rich custard and accented with a few stir-ins and a simple topping. Getting the texture of this company-worthy dessert just right was a challenge; early tests yielded mushy or dry puddings.
After testing types of bread, America’s Test Kitchen settled on challah for its rich flavour. Using stale bread was key as it was much better at soaking up our custard. By soaking and pressing the bread into the custard for just 10 minutes prior to cooking, we ensured that the bread absorbed the custard evenly.
After three hours in the slow cooker, we had moist, evenly cooked bread pudding that was definitely luxurious. Hearty white sandwich bread can be substituted for the challah. If you don’t have stale bread, you can dry fresh bread pieces by baking them on a rimmed baking sheet in a 225-degree oven for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. You will need an oval slow cooker for this recipe.
Serves 8 to 10
Start to finish: 15 minutes prep time, plus 3 to 4 hours on low, plus 30 minutes to cool
Slow cooker size: 5 to 7 quarts
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
9 large egg yolks
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound challah, cut into 1-inch pieces (12 cups), staled overnight
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
Line slow cooker with aluminum foil collar and lightly coat with vegetable oil spray. Whisk cream, milk, egg yolks, granulated sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt in large bowl until sugar has dissolved. Stir in challah and let sit, pressing on bread occasionally, until custard is mostly absorbed, about 10 minutes.
Transfer challah mixture to prepared slow cooker and spread into even layer. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in bowl and sprinkle over top. Cover and cook until centre of bread pudding is set, 3 to 4 hours on low.
Turn off slow cooker and let bread pudding cool, covered, for 30 minutes. Discard foil collar. Serve.