The history of bread dates back to prehistoric times; pudding (both sweet and savory) was first enjoyed by ancient peoples. Food historians generally attribute the origin of basic bread pudding to frugal cooks who did not want to waste stale bread. Since very early times it was common practice to use stale/hard bread in many different ways...including edible serving containers (Medieval sops, foccacia), stuffings (forcemeat), special dishes (French toast) and thickeners (puddings). In the 19th century recipes for bread pudding were often included in cookbooks under the heading "Invalid cookery." Recipes vary greatly and are often influenced by the type of bread employed.
"Bread puddings. An importrant category. Many desserts include bread whether in the form of breadcrumbs or slices of bread...It is safe to assume that from the very distant past cooks have sometimes turned stale bread intoa sweet pudding, if only by soaking it in milk, sweetening it by one means or another, and baking the result. The addition of some fat, preferably in the form of butter, and something like currantsis all that is needed to move this frugal dish into the category of treats, and this is what has ensured its survival in the repertoire, even on cooks who never have stale bread on their hands. This enhanced product is known as bread and butter pudding and this same dish can also be made with something more exotic than plain bread, for example, brioche, pannetone, slices of plain cake, etc. and can be enlivened by judicious spicing or by reinforcing the currants with plumper sultanas and mixed peel. But such elaborations must be kept under strict control, so that what is essentially a simple pudding does nto lose its character under the weight of sophisticated additions. The likely history of the pudding can be illuminated by looking back at medieval sops and at the medieval practice of using a hollowed-out loaf as the container for a sweet dish...variants of bread pudding could be eaten hot as pudding or cold as a cake...an Egyptian dessert which bears a marked similarity to bread and butter pudding, and which was originally a simple dish or rural areas...is called Om Ali and is made with bread...milk or cream, raisins, and almonds...Another Middle Eastern bread sweet, Eish es serny (palace bread), is mad by drying large round slices cut horizontally through a big loaf to make enormous rusks, which are then simmered in sugar and honey syrup flavoured with rosewater and coloured with caramel. Traveling further east, an Indian dessert in the Moghul style, Shahi tukra, is made with bread fried in ghee, dipped in a syrup flavoured with saffron and rosewater, and covered with a creamy sauce in which decorative slices of almond are embedded.""
AND JUST FOR INTEREST SAKE HERE ARE SOME BREAD PUDDING RECIPES THROUGH THE AGES.
A SAMPLER OF BREAD PUDDING RECIPES THROUGH TIME
"A bread pudding
Cut off all the crust of a Penny white loaf and slice it thin into a quart of new milk, set it over a chafingdish of coals, till the bread has soaked up all the milk, then put in a piece of sweet butter, stir it round, let it stand till cold, or you may boil your milk, and pour over your bread, and cover it up close, does full as well; then take the Yolks of six eggs, the whites of three, and beat them up, with a little rosewater, and nutmeg, a little salt, and sugar, and if you choose it, mix all well together, and boil it half an hour."
---The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse  p. 109
Grate the crumb of a stale loaf, and pour it in a pint of boiling milk, let it stand an hour, then beat it to a pulp; add six eggs, well beaten, half a pound of butter, the same of powdered sugar, half a nutmeg, a glass of brandy, and some grated lemon-peel; put a paste in the dish and bake it."
---The Virginia Houswife, Mary Randolph, facsimile 1824 edition with historical notes and commentaries by Karen Hess [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia] 1984 (p. 150)
"Rich Bread and Butter Pudding
Give a good flavour of lemon-rind and bitter almonds, or of cinnamon, ir preferred to a pinto of new milk, and when it has simmered a sufficient time for this, strain and mix it with a quarter of a pint of rich cream; sweeten it with four ounces of sugar in lumps, and stir it while still hot to five well-beaten eggs; throw in a few grains of salt, and move the mixture briskly with a spoon as a glass of brandy is added to it. Have ready a thickly-buttered dish three layers of think bread and butter cut from a half-quartern loaf, with four ounces of currants, and one and a half of finely shred candied peel, strewed between and over them; pour the eggs and milk on them by degrees, letting the bread absorb one portion before another is added; it should soak for a couple of hours before the pudding is taken to the oven, which should be a moderate one. Half an hour will bake it. It is very good when made with new milk only; and some persons use no more than a pint of liquid in all, but part of the whites of the eggs my then be omitted. Cream my be substituted for the entire quantity of milk at pleasure.
New milk, 1 pint; rind of small lemon, and 6 bitter almonds bruised (or 1/2 drachm of cinnamon); simmered 10 to 20 minutes. Cream, 1/4 pint; sugar, 4 oz.; eggs, 6; brandy, 1 wineglassful. Bread and butter, 3 layers; currants, 4 oz.; candied orange or lemon-rind, 1 « oz.; to stand 2 hours, and to be baked 30 minutes in a moderate oven."
---Modern Cookery for Private Families, Eliza Acton, 1845 facsimile reprint with an introduction by Elizabeth Ray [Southover Press:East Sussex] 1993 (p. 359)
"Poor Man's Bread Pudding
Pour boiling water over half a loaf of stale bread, and covering it up closely, let it remain until thoroughly soaked; tehn squeeze it in a towel until half the water is out; put it in a bowl, and wweeten with brown sugar to the taste; add, while hot, a large tablespoonful of butter; flavor with grated nutmeg, a spoonful of brandy, ditto of rose-water; add some stoned raisins. It should be put in a well buttered baking dish about an inch deep, and should bake four hours in a slow oven."
---The Carolina Housewife, Sarah Rutledge, facsimile reprint of 1847 edition [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia] 1979(p. 126)
"A Baked Bread Pudding
Take a stale five cent loaf of bread; cut off all the curst, and grate or rub the crumb as fine as possible. Boil a quart of rich milk, and pour it hot over the bread; then stir in a quarter of a pound of butter, and the same quantity of sugar, a glass of wine and brandy mixed, or a glass of rose water. Or you may omit the liquor and substitute the grated peel of a large lemon. Add a tablespoonful of mixed cinnamon and nutmeg powdered. Stir the whole very well, cover it, and set it away for half an hour. Then let it cool. Beat seven or eight eggs very light, and stir them gradually into the mixture after it is cold. Then butter a deep dish, and bake the pudding an hour. Send it to the table cool."
---Directions for Cookery in its Various Branches, Miss Leslie  (p.299)
"Bread pudding (includes French bread pudding) from Mrs. D.A. Lincoln
Bread pudding from Fannie Merritt Farmer
No. 1. 1 qt. stale bread or cake in cubes
1 pt. Milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup seeded raisins
Beat the whole eggs, add milk, sugar, and gratings of nutmeg or cinnamon if desired; pour over the bread in a pudding dish, let stand until thoroughly soaked and bake 20 minutes in a moderate oven. Add seeded raisins and almonds if desired. Serve with milk, jelly or any pudding sauce..."