Monday, August 27, 2012

Bourbon Bread Pudding

I came across this recipe on Bon Appetit's website while browsing around one day last year. Knowing that Justin's dad loves bread pudding and that we all love bourbon in just about anything, I decided that I would attempt to make this for Thanksgiving. I made it as the original recipe stated with the exception of leaving the crust on the bread and omitting the poppy seeds. It was insanely amazing. Justin's dad declared that I have to make it every time we come to visit. I talked him down to at least making it a new Thanksgiving tradition. It really was that good. (Confession time: I'd never had bread pudding before that. Every restaurant in New Orleans has bread pudding on their menu, but as a kid, why would you want to order a dessert with bread in the name when you could order something with ice cream, cookie, brownie, or cake in the name instead? Having had this as my first one, I judge all other bread puddings based on this one; they have a lot to live up to.)

Justin's been craving bread pudding lately. On Friday night we went out for our date-iversary--it's been 11 years since Justin and I went on our first date--to what may be our new favorite local restaurant. I had the most crazy-awesome burger for dinner, and for dessert we shared some s'mores bread pudding. I guess that didn't satisfy Justin's craving enough though because there I was just two nights later making bread pudding at home. Because I've been eating really terribly calorie-wise since I've moved out here and really need to try to get back on track at least somewhat, I wanted to make a version that was a bit lighter than what I made the first time. Also, I didn't want to have to go to the store, so I just wanted to use the ingredients I had on hand. Because of that, this version doesn't have the pecans that were included the first time around. They add a little something extra, and I would've used them if I had had any on hand; as I said though, I didn't want to go to the store.

First things first, you need to use stale bread for this. I just let my loaf of bread sit out on the counter all day until I was ready to use it. As I said above, I didn't remove the crusts. I like the bits of crunchy texture that it adds in. However, if you prefer your bread pudding to be the same consistency all the way through, just use enough bread that you end up with 12 oz after removing the crusts. If you have vanilla beans on hand, use half of a bean instead of the extract. I had some beans, but I am super stingy with them, reserving them for really special things. This time didn't qualify. I personally also suggest using a higher quality bourbon because I do think the overall flavor is better, but there's not that much in the whole dish, so you probably won't notice it too much if you have to go with cheaper bourbon. Alternatively, you could replace it with another alcohol that you prefer. I'm thinking amaretto or dark rum would be particularly tasty. If you do go with amaretto, you might want to try cutting back on the sugar in the sauce just a bit since amaretto is pretty sweet already. One final tip: when you add the bourbon to the sauce, don't stand with your face over the pot or you'll end up breathing a bunch of bourbon vapor. Trust me; that's not as awesome as it sounds.


Bread Pudding
12 oz stale French bread, cubed
1/2 c unsalted butter, melted and divided
1 1/4 c sugar, divided
4 eggs
2 c milk
2 tbsp bourbon
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 c chopped pecans, optional

Bourbon Sauce
1/4 c unsalted butter
3/4 c dark brown sugar
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c light corn syrup
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp bourbon
3/8 c milk


Combine French bread, 5 tbsp butter, and 1 1/2 tbsp sugar in large casserole dish. Stir to coat bread as evenly as possible. Set aside.

Combine eggs and remaining sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat until mixture is pale and fluffy, about three minutes. Add milk, remaining butter, bourbon, vanilla, and salt to egg mixture. Pour over French bread, and stir to coat evenly. Add pecans if desired and gently stir them into the mixture. Gently press bread pieces down into an even layer with no pieces sticking up out of the top. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours, preferably overnight. Uncover, and bake at 325 F for about 90 minutes or until top has begun to brown and pudding barely jiggles in the center when pan is shaken. Cool 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Meanwhile, combine butter, brown sugar, sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a sauce pan over medium to medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Boil 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add bourbon. Stir well. Add milk a little at a time, stirring constantly. Spoon over bread pudding as it's served.

Servings: 12

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.

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