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Walk through any kitchen and ask any seasoned chef and they will tell you their cooking career began long before they could use their talents to draw a paycheck, and it’s no different for Still Hopes’ pantry and pastry cook, Sam Oxner. Sam has been cooking for a living since he was 18 years old, but he’ll tell you he fell in love with cooking before he could appropriately reach the ingredients on the countertop.

Sam found his love for cooking while watching his grandmother. He describes her as a doting woman who used food to show her love and devotion to her family. He only found out late in her life that her Catfish Stew, a favorite dish of Sam’s and his family, was actually one of his grandmother’s least favorite dishes in the world. She never ate the fruits of her all-day labor, but frequently made it to bring joy to those she loved.

Sam and his grandmother frequently baked together, and it remains Sam’s favorite culinary discipline. A fan of French toast as a child, he was immediately drawn to her bread pudding because 8 year old Sam thought it was “French Toast but Thicker.” His primary job at the time? Licking the beaters! He didn’t think much of his time waiting for his grandmother to sneak him a taste of the work in progress, but he didn’t realize what was truly at play.

“I was always looking to beaters, and so I really didn't think I was learning anything. But then after, after it all goes down[…] I was doing more than licking the beaters. I was paying attention to what she's doing. And I would watch her […] and I learned to make things the old fashioned way.”

Today he can make 1000 different variations of her bread pudding. He says understanding the building blocks of a good base is crucial, but after that the possibilities are endless. He brought in a new flavor combination today – pineapple and cream cheese. It was balanced, caramelized, warm, moist, decadent – it was everything you would want in a bread pudding. It truly was a testament to his love of baking and his grandmother’s love for him.

Taste it for yourself! Sam’s pineapple and cream cheese bread pudding recipe is just below.


·       1 can (20 ounces) unsweetened pineapple chunks, undrained

·       10 cups cubed dinner rolls. Think 17-18 rolls

·       1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

·       3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

·       5 large eggs

·       1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

·       1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

·       2 teaspoons vanilla extract


·       1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

·       1/4 cup butter, cubed

·       1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1.     Drain pineapple, reserving 1/3 cup juice. Place half of the bread cubes in a greased 13x9-in. baking dish. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar until smooth; drop by tablespoonfuls over bread cubes. Top with remaining bread cubes and pineapple.

2.     In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, cream, vanilla and reserved pineapple juice until blended; pour over pineapple. Refrigerate, covered, several hours or overnight. The mixture should be well saturated, but not liquidy. If you press your finger into the mixture and liquid pools, it is too wet. Don't be afraid to add more bread and wait another hour if your wet ingredient balance isn't right.

3.     Preheat oven to 350°. Remove bread pudding from refrigerator while oven heats. Bake, uncovered, until lightly browned, 25-35 minutes.

4.     In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter until butter is melted. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Just before serving, drizzle over warm bread pudding.