If you’ve had fun making cascarones or other Easter egg decorating crafts that involve removing an egg’s insides from its shell, I probably don’t have to remind you that the second part of your egg decorating journey is now upon you. With a big bowl of raw eggs now sitting in front of you, what are you going to do?
Let me tell you what you are going to do: You are going to make bread pudding. Then, you are going to eat bread pudding and, again, I don’t think I have to tell you this, but, my friend, you are really, really going to like it.
Much in the same vein as a frittata, bread pudding is a great way to use up a few last ends of this and that, eventually creating a finished dish that is light years removed from what you may have initially been able to achieve with each item individually. Because I am frugal to the point of being almost batty, my freezer is populated with several different bags of almost-finished hunks of bread. Not all of the bread is the same type of bread, but in the case of bread pudding, I have found that it doesn’t really matter if all your matches, so long as all of your bread is delicious. I’ve made bread pudding with a mixture of old baguette, leftover brioche, and stale Italian-style boule, and the result is never anything less than fantastic.
Because I had dried apricots on hand, I decided to put them to use in this bread pudding, and because there are few things as well-paired as stone fruits and bourbon, I just had to give the apricots a nice soak in some bourbon before tucking them into the pudding. No surprise, the two items just sang when put together, and they did wonders for bringing out all the right notes when they met up with the dark brown sugar of the custard. With less than ¼ cup of sugar in the entire affair, I’d argue that this lovely, only mildly sweet dish could be carted out for brunch and never seem out of place. Not that I could ever think of a time or place where I would not welcome this bread pudding, but that’s just me.
Bourbon Apricot Bread Pudding
½ cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 cups milk
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar, separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
5 cups stale or slightly dried bread cubes, cut into 1-inch chunks
¼ cup coarsely broken raw pecan halves
In a small bowl, combine dried apricots and bourbon. Toss to combine, then allow to soak for at least 20 minutes, tossing frequently to make sure the bourbon reaches every bit of the apricots.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl or in a large measuring cup, combine milk, eggs, 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whisk vigorously until the brown sugar has dissolved and the eggs are completely combined. Place the bread cubes in an 8” x 8” square baking pan, then pour the custard over the bread, soaking every piece as much as possible. Allow bread to rest in the custard for 15 minutes, pushing the bread down into the custard every couple of minutes to ensure that everything gets nice and soaked.
When the bread has finished soaking, remove the apricots from the bourbon (discarding the remaining bourbon, ahem, in any way you wish). Add the apricots to the soaked bread, using your fingers to poke the fruit down and really nestle them in. Sprinkle the pecans over the top of the bread, then sprinkle over the 1 teaspoon of dark brown sugar.
Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until the custard in the center of the pudding is set, and the bread has puffed up quite a bit and turned a nice golden shade. Serve hot or warm.
Makes roughly 6 to 8 servings.