Friday, November 11, 2011

Apple-Raisin Cinnamon Bread Pudding w/Creamy Bourbon Sauce

One of my favorite fall desserts is bread pudding…full of cinnamon, raisins, and Texas pecans. Topped with creamy, slightly sweet bourbon sauce, it’s a delicious treat. What I love most about bread pudding is that it’s much more than the sum of its individual parts: stale bread, eggs, milk, sugar, fruit, and nuts. Simple enough, but these pantry staples come together to make a fantastic dessert or brunch dish. My go-to bread pudding recipe is my tweak on Cajun superchef Paul Prudhomme’s version…but with a dozen eggs and a cup of heavy cream? It’s no wonder I only make it once or twice a year, usually around the holidays.

I had half a loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread left in the fridge, so I immediately thought about making bread pudding. I searched around online to find a recipe that sounded delicious, but easy on the eggs and cream. Epicurious came to my rescue with a fantastic bread pudding recipe that uses milk and eggs for the custard. This recipe calls for adding diced apple, which sounded totally delish combined with cinnamon-raisin bread! I added cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg to my custard to really amp up the spice factor!

This bread pudding is easy enough to whip up after work for a special dessert. Dice the bread and apple, whisk together a quick custard, combine, and bake. See? Easy. While the pudding bakes and soaks up all that yummy custard, you have time make a sauce to pour on top of each serving. My normal whiskey sauce has lots of? You guessed it: cream, eggs, and bourbon…and takes about 20 minutes to make. For a weeknight, I wanted something simple and a bit lighter…and I found it the latest issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray.

Apple-Raisin Cinnamon Bread Pudding w/Creamy Bourbon Sauce
adapted from Epicurious and Every Day with Rachael Ray

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350; butter an oval casserole dish or a 13x9 pan. Make the custard by combining 4 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups milk, 4 tbs. butter (melted), 1 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, 1 tsp. Vietnamese high-oil cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. Whisk well to combine.

Step 2:  Add the following ingredients to the bowl: 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 1 Jonagold apple peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces, and 3 1/2 cups diced cinnamon-raisin bread (I used Pepperidge Farm brand). Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Pour the mixture into the buttered dish. It'll look a bit soupy, but don't panic! This ensures that your bread pudding will come out perfectly moist when it's done cooking.

Step 3:  Cook for approximately one hour, rotating the dish about halfway through for even cooking. During the last 10 minutes of baking time, sprinkle the bread pudding with a mixture of 2 tbs. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. The bread pudding is done when it's puffy and golden brown.

Step 4:  While the bread pudding bakes, make the bourbon sauce. Combine 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat the cream-milk, but don't boil. While the cream heats, whisk together five egg yolks and 1/3 cup of sugar in a bowl. When the cream is hot, add 1/4 cup to the egg-sugar mixture and whisk to temper the eggs. Add the egg-cream mixture to the remaining cream in the saucepan and reduce heat to med-low. Cook until thickened, whisking the entire time. This takes 5-10 minutes. Once the sauce has thickened, add: 1 tsp. vanilla extract or paste, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/3 cup bourbon -- I like to use Wild Turkey in my sauce. Whisk to combine and pour into a measuring cup to cool.

Step 5:  To serve, scoop some of the bread pudding into a serving bowl. Top with a generous drizzle of the creamy bourbon sauce. Some people like less sauce, but the whiskey sauce is what really makes bread pudding special to me!

OMG…this bread pudding is totally delish! It’s sort of like the love child of bread pudding and a baked apple…and your kitchen will smell like a professional bakery while it’s cooking. The cinnamon flavor really shines through thanks to generous amounts of cinnamon in the bread, custard, and sauce. It’s not overbearing, combines perfectly with the apples, raisins, and pecans. The simple custard sauce is a cinch to whip up while the bread pudding bakes. 

This dessert isn’t overly sweet, so it would also make a wonderful addition to a Sunday brunch or a holiday open house. I like to add just enough bourbon to give the sauce a nice flavor without overwhelming the other flavors…but feel free to add more if you like! If you have leftovers, store the sauce and the bread pudding in the fridge in two air-tight containers. The bread pudding reheats perfectly in the microwave. Simply add a bit to a bowl, top with some of the bourbon sauce, and microwave until everything’s nice and warm again!

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