Bourbon Bread Pudding

It is beyond me how the holidays are already well in our rear-view mirror, the Super Bowl has come and gone, Valentine’s Day can be crossed off the calendar, and here we are with Lent already at our doorstep. Time really does fly when you’re a grown up. I disapprove. Regardless of how I feel, time is going to keep on ticking, so we may as well enjoy all the moments we’re given. Which is why anytime a fun food holiday rolls around I waste no time reading about regional/cultural food traditions and baking up some festive eats. With Lent comes Mardi Gras, which entails all sorts of amazing eats from the New Orleans area. Last year for the occasion I made Shrimp & Sausage Jambalaya, Moon Pies, and a traditional King Cake. This year I have more awesome recipes for you and thought that we’d kick things off with this bourbon-soaked bread pudding. It is Friday, after all!

I fell in love with bread pudding a few years ago when my Chief Culinary Consultant and I went to a cozy little Italian restaurant to ring in the New Year. We ended up being served dessert right at midnight, which was perfect. He ordered a chocolate bread pudding, and I… can’t remember what I ordered. Most likely because he gave me a taste of his and I fell in love with it, so he offered to trade me desserts.  #1 – What a man for trading me desserts – he’s the best. #2 – This is a classic example of what usually happens when we go out to eat – he always tends to order the more delicious food, and I often regret my choice.

When I first saw this recipe there was no question in my mind how fabulous it would be. And, hello! Lots of bourbon! I tasted this both plain and with the accompanying bourbon sauce. Without the sauce, there is maybe a hint of bourbon but it’s not strong at all; however, the sauce is what really gives it a kick! You can decide how amped up you want your bourbon flavor 🙂 I do believe this dessert may have cracked my Top 10, it’s that amazing. I highly recommend stuffing your face with it, especially if it’s on a night your hockey team lost and you need to drown your sorrows in something. As my Chief Culinary Consultant told me as we were leaving the game on Wednesday night and I informed him of my plan when we got home, “Well, if you’re going to drown your sorrows in something, that’s probably the best thing to do it with.” Amen. Pass the bourbon sauce.

One year ago: Chocolate Malted Whopper Cookies
Two years ago: Pumpkin Scones with Spiced Glazed
Three years ago: Ham and Split Pea Soup
Four years ago: Almost Fudge Gateau

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New Orleans Bourbon Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Ingredients:

For the Bread Pudding:

1 (18 to 20-inch) French baguette, torn into 1-inch pieces (10 cups)

1 cup raisins

¾ cup bourbon, divided

8 egg yolks

1½ cups light brown sugar

3 cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled


For the Bourbon Sauce:

¼ cup bourbon, divided

1½ teaspoons cornstarch

¾ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish; set aside.


2. Arrange the bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until crisp and brown, about 12 minutes, turning pieces over halfway through and rotating the baking sheet front to back. Let bread cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F.


3. Meanwhile, heat raisins and ½ cup bourbon in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until bourbon begins to simmer, 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the mixture, placing the bourbon and raisins in separate bowls.


4. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, brown sugar, cream, milk, vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk in in the remaining ¼ cup bourbon plus the bourbon used to plump the raisins. Toss in the toasted bread until evenly coated. Let the mixture sit until the bread begins to absorb custard, about 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. If the majority of the bread is still hard when squeezed, soak for another 15 to 20 minutes.


5. Pour half the bread mixture into the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle with half the raisins. Repeat with the remaining bread mixture and raisins. Cover the dish with foil, and bake for 45 minutes.


6. Meanwhile, mix the granulated sugar and remaining ½ teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Using your fingers, pinch 6 tablespoons butter into the sugar mixture until the crumbs are the size of small peas. Remove the foil from pudding, sprinkle with the butter mixture, and bake, uncovered, until the custard is just set, 20 to 25 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and bake until the top of the pudding forms a golden crust, about 2 minutes.


7. Let the pudding cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes (or up to 2 hours). Serve alone or with Bourbon Sauce (I strongly recommend the bourbon sauce).


8. To Make the Bourbon Sauce: In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of bourbon until well combined.


9. Using a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook until sauce thickens, 3 to 5 minutes.


10. Take the pan off the heat, and stir in salt, butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons bourbon. Drizzle warm sauce over bread pudding.


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(Recipe adapted from Ezra Pound Cake)


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