holiday leftovers part 2

Stop everything you're doing and make this recipe, like NOW. It's that good.

One can never have enough bread, right?! Until you have too much bread and it goes stale. This happens to me all the time. In my family we live by one motto… NEVER, and I mean never leave people wanting more. I get this from my mamma who doesn't know how to cook for anything less than what she calls an army. This usually means that we have tons of leftovers and yes, tons of leftover bread which gets stale quickly. I just so happen to know the best way to put that stale bread to good use and I'm not talking about being wasteful and throwing it in the trash…

Bread pudding has a special place in my heart. My sister and I usually go on a date to a local brewery to catch up every now and then. It started when I was in college and she missed me and has continued through the years now that I live in another state. When she met my now husband for the first time, my family took him to that restaurant. She raved to him about how great the bread pudding was (which it is). She ordered one for herself and when he asked to share it with her, she said no way, get your own! Hahaha, love my family and our healthy appetites. Long story short, the bread pudding easily leaves 4 adults happy and satisfied. She'll never live it down! 

In my family, we LOVE bread pudding. So much so that when I got married in September, we served bread pudding instead of cake at our wedding. When I bought 1 too many loaves of bread for a holiday get together I knew exactly what I was going to do with that leftover loaf - re-create the bread pudding we served at our wedding. You know the saying that food tastes better when it's cooked with love?! This is by far THE BEST bread pudding I've ever had or made. I'll stop talking now and let you get into it...

The Apple State Meets the Big Apple Bread Pudding with Salted Bourbon Caramel Sauce
adapted from the gilded fork
yields 10 - 12 healthy servings

ingredients for the bread pudding:
4 honey crisp apples, peeled cored & diced
¼ c. butter
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp salt
c. brown sugar

1 loaf bread (brioche, challah or country white), in 1" cubes ~8 c. 
1½ c. whole milk
1½ c. heavy cream
1 tsp almond extract
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c. sugar
½ c. brown sugar
4 eggs + 3 egg yolks
1 c. almond slices

caramel can be made up to a week in advance. Otherwise, make it while the bread pudding bakes!

To make the bread pudding: 
Preheat oven to 350º F. Cut bread into 1" cubes and lay out on a baking sheet. Slightly toast the bread in the oven if it's not stale already. This will help it absorb the custard better. Pull out and let them cool while you do the rest…

In a medium sized skillet, cook apples, butter, vanilla bean split length wise with the seeds scraped into the pot, salt and the brown sugar. You want the sugar to dissolve and the apple juices to get nice and thick. This will take about 15 - 20 min.

While the apples cook, heat the milk & heavy cream in a medium sized sauce pan. You want to bring it to a soft boil and then shut the heat off. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, salt & extract together. Slowly ladle a small amount of the cream into the egg mixture to temper it. You want to incorporate the hot cream into the egg mixture so that the eggs thicken but don't cook. Slowly while whisking, drizzle in the remaining cream. Add in ½ c. of the almond slicess and your slightly toasted bread cubes to the bowl. Give it a good, aggressive stir for about 2 - 3 minutes. You want all of the cubes coated in the custard mixture and you want to break up some of the cubes. I've found this is what gives you the good bread pudding texture. Let mixture sit for 30 - 60 minutes until it fully absorbs the custard into the bread.

Butter or non-stick spray a 9x9 baking dish. Dump bread pudding mixture into dish, smushing (totally an official word) the mixture into the pan so it all fits. If you don't have a 9x9, you can use a smaller pan and put the extra mixture into individual ramekins or bake it in two smaller dishes. Sprinkle the top with the remaining ½ c. almond slices. Bake for about 45 minutes until it's slightly puffed and golden brown on top.

Serve warm with caramel sauce on top OR, chill in the refrigerator 4 hours and serve cold with caramel sauce. It's good both ways. So, so good. 

improv style:
bread pudding is essentially a blank canvas. the only things you need are the custard & bread. all the extras (i.e. spices, apples, nuts…) are just the flavor components. i did almond apple but you could do apple + pecan with a bit of rum. OR you could do dried fruits rehydrated in liquor or juice. pick your favorites… pear with some orange zest and walnuts or maybe dried cherries and chocolate chunks is more your fancy. any way you role, just make sure you keep the ratios for the liquid and dry fairly similar to this base. egg nog instead of the whole milk would be a really fun and festive interpretation. ooh, ooh... do that with rum! hello holiday leftovers being put to REALLY good use!

if you want to keep the same flavors but don't have almond extract, you could do amaretto in it's place. any kind of baking apple will work, granny smith, braeburn, gala fuji or empire. play with spices and zests... there's so many ways to completely change the flavor! lemon, orange or grapefruit zest is a great place to start. cinnamon is standard but what about star anise or cardamom for an indian inspired flavor?! steeping your cream with tea would be another way to infuse a different flavor into the bread pudding. the options are endless!!

have a bunch of leftover dinner rolls? as long as they're not savory in the sense of garlic or have weird toppings baked into it, you can use the bread! If it's a crustier bread you might need more of the custard base to soften it up. 

you can serve it with a caramel sauce, maybe add rum instead of bourbon? or maybe a creme anglaise is more your fancy? either way, there's so many things you can top it with... like ice cream or whipped cream!


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