In Vermeer's "Milkmaid" you see several loaves of bread, milk, and pieces of torn bread...is she preparing bread pudding? It's a Dutch dish, so that's a good guess.
I have my class participate in preparing this dish without telling them what they’re doing…I just ask a couple of them to tear the bread into cubes, and ask one to crack the eggs, etc…about half-way through someone will say, hey, this reminds me of that painting, The Milkmaid! (I numbered the steps, you could assign each student one of the steps; use extra students in steps 3 and 5 if you have a big class.) We put it in the oven and discuss the painting while it bakes so we smell the delicious aroma while we discuss the art. We use the pitcher, milk, and bread to stage modern versions of “The Milkmaid” with students posing as the milkmaid by a window, too!
1.5 pounds good-quality day-old bread (two loaves from the bakery, brioche is best)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 Tablespoon of butter for greasing your baking dish
1 quart whole milk (or half-and-half)
6 eggs beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Maple syrup or confectioner’s sugar
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
2. Butter baking dish.
3. Tear the bread into bite sized cubes and arrange in baking dish.
4. Pour melted butter over the bread cubes.
5. In a bowl combine milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.
6. Pour the combined milk, etc. over the bread cubes in the baking dish.
Allow the mixture to sit for 15 minutes so the bread soaks up the liquid.
7. Bake for 45 minutes.
8. Serve with syrup or confectioner’s sugar on top.
I also make this for Christmas morning breakfast…I put it together the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight and just have to pop it in the oven in the morning. It's like French toast if you serve it with syrup.