Tag Archives: bread pudding

Bourbon Apricot Bread Pudding

27 Mar

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Last Year: Brown Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting

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.

Pear and Chocolate Bread Pudding

21 Nov

Do you believe that the subconscious can really drive one’s actions?  That inclinations deep inside you can dictate your unwitting behavior?  Sometimes I really do wonder, most pointedly because lately, completely contrary to what had previously passed as the norm around here, I have been leaving loaves of delicious, crusty bread out on the counter, allowing them to become stale beyond the limits of standard consumption.  But then, stale and slightly dry, what do they then magically transform into?  Perfect bread for bread pudding, that’s what.

I will eat bread pudding in any form.  Made with brioche, a baguette, or, as is the standard at the legendary Heathman Restaurant and Bar, lightly drizzled with warm caramel sauce, I do not believe that there is a bread pudding I would not eat, love, and cherish to the very end.  (Except perhaps for that one horrifying recipe I once saw that made bread pudding with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, sweetened condensed milk, and a couple of tins of fruit cocktail.  No.  Just no.)

My preferred bread pudding is decidedly mellow on the sweetness front, but high on soft bites of custardy bread with lightly crisp edges.  Sure, I’ve made highly sweetened bread pudding before, but that sweetness seemed awfully fitting in order to offset the decidedly puckery effects of fresh rhubarb.  Though I loved that bread pudding more than I think I could ever be able to fully explain (the self-forming sauce it made was, in a word, magical), I think I have finally come up with another bread pudding that just might have a fighting chance of dethroning the reigning rhubarb champ.

Studded with chunks of pear, streaked with bittersweet chocolate, and only lightly sweetened with a dark brown sugar custard, this is a bread pudding that comforts without overwhelming the senses.  With a snap of pear and a rich hit of chocolate in each bite, you are able to savor each forkful without wondering if you will ever be able to walk again, button your trousers again, survive without supplemental insulin again.  I am not sure how it is possible, but this dessert manages to be somehow both subtle and attention-commanding at the same time.  It’s a rare feat, but surely one you won’t forget or regret.

Pear and Chocolate Bread Pudding

1 French baguette, cut or torn into 1-inch chunks and allowed to become slightly stale, or toasted very lightly to dry them out just a tad (you should have about 5 cups of bread chunks total)

1 pear, peeled, cored, and chopped into ½-inch chunks

½ cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate chunks

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups milk

¼ cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch of cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly butter a 13” x 8” baking dish and set aside.

In the buttered baking dish, combine the bread chunks, pear chunks, and chopped chocolate.

In a medium pot set over low heat, combine the milk and sugar and whisk together until the sugar has dissolved.  Slowly pour in the beaten eggs, whisking as you pour.  Add the vanilla, pinch of cinnamon, and pinch of salt.  The heat should stay on low, and the mixture should never come close to boiling.

Remove the pot from the heat.  Carefully pour the heated milk mixture over the bread and pear mixture, being sure to coat and soak every piece of bread.  If necessary, lightly press the bread chunks down with the back of a spoon, coaxing the bread into the milk mixture in the bottom of the baking dish.

Tightly cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil, then bake for an additional 10-20 minutes, until the bread is puffed up with golden edges, but the middle of the bread pudding is moist and the custard has been absorbed.

Breakfast from Portland Farmers Market

4 Jul

I would generally consider it quite inelegant to toot one’s horn so very mightily about one’s own recipe, but, and you must trust me on this one, this exception I am about to make is completely, totally worth it because, as I toot my horn, you will be introduced to what I now consider my greatest achievement in on-the-fly recipe creation, thus making you privy to all the details that would render it possible for you to make and eat this dish yourself, which, though you may not yet know it, I can assure you that you really, really want to.

Last week, as part of my twice-monthly writing assignment for Portland Farmers Market, I took my personally allotted $10 of spending money and I bought this:

Then I did this:

 And this:

Followed by this:

And then, after more chopping and mixing, I proceeded to cook everything and ended up with this:

Now, here is where the loud tooting of the horn comes in, but do you see that vegetable frittata?  It was quite good.  Okay, now do you see that thing next to the frittata?  The bread pudding made with fresh rhubarb?  It was unbelievable.  No, really.  Not one to ever turn down rhubarb, I knew I would enjoy a concoction that came about by topping a simple bread pudding with chopped up, sweetened rhubarb, but I did not realize just how fantastically the rhubarb would flavor the body of the pudding.

I am aware of the fact that, as the person who made up the recipe, I really should have a better idea of what makes it tick, but, I have to admit, I can only venture a guess as to what made this bread pudding so incredibly, intensely flavorful.  The secret may lie in what I did to the rhubarb before I spread it on top of the bread.  By allowing the rhubarb to macerate in a mixture of dark brown sugar and regular sugar for just a few minutes, the liquid that is released from the rhubarb intermingles with the sugars and starts to form a thick and luscious syrup.  Then, when the rhubarb and sugar mixture gets baked on top of the bread mixture, everything begins to caramelize together and melt into an absolutely ambrosial mixture of rich, custardy bread nestled against fragrant and velvety rhubarb.

With each bite, you get a hit of tartly sweet rhubarb, comforting bread custard, and an almost dainty and aromatic swipe of bourbon-flavored caramel.  The recipe contains no bourbon, but I suspect that when the mixture of vanilla, dark brown sugar, and the rhubarb liquid  came together, they somehow magically transformed themselves into bourbon-flavored caramel.  Or, at least, I am guessing that is what happened.  Perhaps when I make this bread pudding again (and, oh, how I cannot wait to make it again), I will further test the results of the mixture and then get back to you about it.  Or, better yet, you should just make this bread pudding yourself and discover first hand its charms and delights.  No, really.  Both my horn and I are insisting upon it.

This recipe, as I mentioned previously, was something I developed for Portland Farmers Market.  If you wish, you can read a bit more about it and its accompaniments (and get recipes for both) over here, on the Portland Farmers Market website.  However, as a service to deliciousness, I am also going to publish the rhubarb bread pudding recipe below, because heaven forbid I keep anyone from it any longer than I have to.

Rhubarb Bread Pudding

1 baguette

1 pound rhubarb, washed and trimmed of any hard, fibrous ends

¾ cup white sugar

¼ cup dark brown sugar

1 ½ cups milk

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly butter a medium-sized baking dish and set aside.

Slice rhubarb into ½ inch chunks.  In a medium bowl, combine rhubarb, white sugar, and brown sugar.  Stir to combine, then set aside for 15 minutes to allow the rhubarb to macerate and release some of its juices.

Meantime, slice baguette into thick slices, then tear each slice into large bite-sized chunks.  You will need 5 cups total of bread chunks.  If you have any baguette remaining (as I did), set aside for another purpose.  Place bread chunks in pre-buttered baking dish.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine milk, eggs, vanilla, and pinch of salt.  Whisk vigorously until the eggs are entirely incorporated.  Pour milk mixture over bread chunks and allow to soak for 10 minutes, tipping the dish every few minutes and spooning excess liquid over the bread to make sure bread is completely soaked.

Evenly pour the rhubarb mixture over the top of the soaked bread.  Be sure to include all the liquid released from the rhubarb.  Do not mix.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 35 minutes, until bread is puffed, the custard has been mostly absorbed, and the rhubarb has softened.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until a few edges of the exposed bread begin to turn golden and crisp.

Cool slightly before eating.  Serves 6-8 people.

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