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Woolworth’s bread pudding is mouthwateringly moist

By Betty Shimabukuro


For those who think bread pudding is too mushy, too eggy, too bland: Give it another try, using this recipe from the past. 

Noella Narimatsu wrote in search of the bread pudding served at the F.W. Woolworth store downtown, which closed in 1997. She remembered it as "really moist."

Henry Shun, a retired professional baker, came up not only with the recipe, but some local baking lore. 

Shun worked at Liberty Bakery in the 1950s and says the custard recipe developed there was the basic formula used to make pies by several bakeries of the era. One of his co-bakers, Seichan Seto, left Liberty to take a job at Woolworth and transplanted that custard into a bread pudding. 

This recipe departs from the bread pudding norm in a couple of ways: The bread should be fresh, Shun says, and is used in whole pieces with crusts left on. This makes things simpler than in recipes that call for breaking up the bread or drying it out.

When you're whisking the custard, it's going to seem like you have too much for the suggested 8-inch baking pan, and in fact if your pan is shallow -- less than 2 inches deep -- the liquid may overflow. I used a 9-inch pan and added a little more bread to fill it out. Resist the urge to use any larger pan, though; the bread will soak up a lot of custard, and you need enough to get it nice and moist.

This pudding bakes up soft but firm, moist but not mushy. It was tasty warm but even better after a couple of days chilled. 

For those interested in more of Shun's old-time baking recipes, he published many of them in two volumes called "Seasons of Baking." Email him at 



12 pieces white bread (do not cut off crusts)
1 teaspoon cinnamon, or more as needed
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
>> Custard:
8 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons evaporated milk
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water\
1 teaspoon vanilla

Prepare a water bath: Place a larger pan big enough to hold the 8-inch pan in the oven and fill 1/3 full with water. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch baking pan (pan should be at least 2 inches deep; if your pan is not that deep, use a 9-inch pan). 

Whisk eggs and sugar together until smooth. Whisk in milk and water, then vanilla.

Place 4 slices bread in single layer on bottom of pan (if using a 9-inch pan, you may need another half-slice of bread to fill out each layer). Ladle 1 cup custard on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon and raisins, if using. Repeat with 4 more slices of bread and more custard. Top with last 4 slices bread. Add most of remaining custard, then let pan sit to absorb the liquid. Add rest of custard, or enough so that bread is well soaked. Top with more cinnamon.

Carefully place pan into the water bath in the oven. 

Bake 90 minutes, until pudding is firm in middle. Cover pan lightly with foil after an hour, so top doesn't get too brown. Do not underbake. Pudding will puff up, then settle as it cools. 

Serve chilled with ice cream or whipped cream. Serves 9.

Nutritional information unavailable.

Write "By Request," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813; or email requests to

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