Classic Creole Bread Pudding

  • Serves: Makes 6 servings
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Variations: Banana Bread Pudding; Bread Loaf Pudding; Chocolate Bread Pudding; Croissant Bread Pudding; Date-Nut Bread Pudding; Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is a dessert popular in British cuisine, Puerto Rican cuisine, Mexican cuisine, Louisiana Creole and that of the Southern United States, as well as Belgian and French cuisine. I adapted this recipe from James McNair, cookbook author. He lived in the French Quarter, New Orleans and enjoyed this treat at the Coffee Pot, where he wrote that Pearl made it every day. Before leaving the area, he talked her out of the recipe, which is simply delicious and sinful! Louisiana bread pudding is made of stale bread and its consistency is similar to a moist cake and is warm served with a wonderful vanilla, whiskey, or rum sauce. The smell is heavenly and if you get a chance to visit New Orleans, this is a MUST have dessert that is served at most restaurants.
PUDDING RECIPE HELP

INGREDIENTS
Stale French bread
Unsalted butter or solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature, or cooking spray for greasing
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups 2 % or whole milk
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste

Chocolate Sauce, Lemon Sauce or Warm Liquor Sauce, recipes below

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Slice enough bread into 1/2-inch-thick slices to fill an 8- or 9-inch square pan in 2 layers, then transfer the bread to a large bowl. Using a pastry brush, lightly grease the pan with butter or shortening, or coat with spray. Set aside.

2. In a bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, milk, cream, melted butter, vanilla and almond extracts, currants or raisins, and nutmeg; whisk to blend well. Pour the mixture over the bread slices and set aside, turning the bread as necessary, until the bread is soft and saturated with the mixture, about 30 minutes.

3. Arrange the bread slices in 2 layers in the prepared pan. Pour any unabsorbed egg mixture over the top of the bread, cover, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or for up to overnight.

4. Thirty minutes before baking, position an oven shelf in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

5. Bake until the pudding is set and the top is lightly browned, about 45 minutes. During baking, occasionally push the bread down into the sauce with a spatula.

Meanwhile, prepare the selected sauce and keep warm or reheat just before serving.

To serve, spoon the warm pudding into shallow bowls and ladle some of the sauce over the top.

STORAGE
Keep refrigerated for a couple of days. Reheat when necessary.

VARIATIONS
Banana Bread Pudding
Use banana bread in place of the French bread, slice and lightly toast in an oven to dry. Then, leave the slices out overnight to dry if using fresh bread. Substitute chopped crystallized ginger for the currants or raisins. Serve with Crème Anglaise or Whipped Cream.

Bread Loaf Pudding
Substitute a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan for the square pan. Use thinly sliced stale high-quality white bread in place of the French bread. Cut off and discard the crusts and trim the slices so that they will stand upright in the loaf pan. Omit the currants or raisins. Dip the bread slices into the egg mixture, then pack the slices rather tightly in the pan to resemble a loaf of bread. Pour any remaining egg mixture over the bread, cover tightly, and refrigerate overnight. Bake as directed and set aside to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, run a thin, flexible knife blade around the inside edges of the pan. Invert a serving plate over the pan, invert the plate and pan together, and carefully lift off the pan. Slice the pudding crosswise. Ladle Crème Anglaise onto individual plates, then top with slices of the pudding.

Chocolate Bread Pudding
Use chocolate pound cake in place of the French bread; slice and lightly toast in an oven to dry. Then, leave the slices out overnight to dry if using fresh cake. Omit the currants or raisins. Add 1 cup chopped toasted pecans to the egg mixture, if desired. Serve with warm Caramel Sauce, Chocolate Sauce, or Crème Anglaise.

Croissant Bread Pudding
Use stale Croissants, sliced horizontally, in place of the French bread. Substitute chopped candied orange zest for the currants or raisins. For a chocolate version, add about 1 cup coarsely chopped finest-quality semisweet or mil chocolate to the egg mixture.

Date-Nut Bread Pudding
Use Gingerbread in place of the French bread, slice and lightly toast in an oven to dry. Then, leave the slices out overnight to dry if using fresh bread. Serve warm with Old Fashioned Dessert Sauce or Lemon Sauce.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Use pumpkin bread in place of the French bread; slice and lightly toast in an oven to dry. Then, leave the slices out overnight to dry if using fresh bread. Sweeten the custard with pure maple syrup or light brown sugar instead of the sugar. Use chopped dried dates in place of the currants or raisins. When the pudding comes out of the oven, pour warm Caramel Sauce over the top and set aside to cool slightly before serving.

SAUCE RECIPES
CHOCOLATE SAUCE - Start with the finest chocolate you can buy for this all-purpose sauce for desserts and ice cream. Instead of the vanilla, flavor the sauce with a liqueur such as Amaretto, Frangelico, Grand Marnier, or Kahlua.
Makes about 2 cups for 8 servings
INGREDIENTS
10 ounces finest-quality semisweet (not unsweetened) or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups heavy (whipping) cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
INSTRUCTIONS
In a heavy saucepan, combine the chocolate, butter, and cream. Place over low heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Serve warm, or set aside to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Slowly reheat, stirring frequently, over low heat or in a microwave oven.

WARM LIQUOR SAUCE - I make this sauce with Southern Comfort liqueur to serve over the Bread Pudding. It's also excellent with other gooey puddings.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups for 6 servings.
INGREDIENTS
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons light cream or half-and-half
1 egg, lightly beaten
About 1/4 cup bourbon, brandy, dark rum, or Southern Comfort
INSTRUCTIONS
In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, and light cream or half-and-half.

Place over low heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the egg until well blended. Cool for about 5 minutes, then stir in the chosen liquor.
Serve warm.

LEMON SAUCE - This is a great topping for the Bread Pudding, but it's also good with other dense pudding and cakes. It may be made ahead, refrigerated, and gently reheated before serving.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups for 6 servings.
INGREDIENTS
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh lemon zest
Yellow food coloring (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS
In a saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Slowly whisk in 1 cup water, blending well. Place over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is clear and thickened., 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the butter, lemon juice and zest, and just enough food coloring (if using) to tint the sauce pale yellow and stir until the butter melts.

Serve warm, or set aside to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Slowly reheat, stirring frequently, over low heat or in a microwave oven.

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