Bread Pudding with Bourbon Drizzle

Monday, November 29, 2010

One of my favorite desserts is a good bread pudding. Probably the best I'd ever had was this little cafe in Idyllwild, CA. It was owned and operated by some German immigrant old lady and her daughter. They had a feast of various baked goods including the best damn cherry danish you'd have in your life. Well, every night they'd take all the leftover baked goods (croissants, danish of various types, breads) and combine it all in a subtly spiced bread pudding. It was to die for. My version here pays homage to the cherry in their bread pudding that was such an unexpected tart and sweet surprise, but uses easier to find and work with dried cherries. The addition of currants and subtle holiday classic spices like cinnamon and allspice add color and flavor to this pudding that's just perfect for the holidays. I also make it extra special (and tasty) with a super fast bourbon caramel to drizzle on top. And powdered sugar...naturally.

Holiday Bread Pudding with Bourbon Drizzle
12 cups (about a loaf's worth) of French or Italian bread, day-old or older
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
6 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
3 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or mace
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup dried currants
confectioner's sugar for dusting

For the Bourbon Drizzle:
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup bourbon
1/3 cup + more as needed of heavy cream

Cut or tear the bread into 1-inch sized pieces. Cut off the crusts if you like; leaving the crust one will make for crunchier/tougher pieces in the pudding. Place bread in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, gently whisk together the cream, milk,eggs, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt . Pour this egg mixture over the bread. Add the melted butter and mix with a spatula or your hands. Press the bread down and into the egg mixture, helping it soak. Let the bread soak at least 30  minutes (preferably 45). You want a good amount of that liquid to be absorbed by the bread, so soak it longer if you need to. This can even be done overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray or butter a 9x13 casserole dish (or around that size).

Add the dried cherries and currants tot he bread mixture and give it all a good toss. Then pour the bread and fruit mixture into the buttered casserole dish and bake in oven for about 40-50 minutes, or until bubbling and center has firmed up.

While the bread pudding cooks, make the bourbon drizzle.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the sugar and brown sugar all at once and whisk until melted and dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Then lower the flame or remove the pot from the stove and add the bourbon all at once. Be careful -- the bourbon will react instantly with the hot sugar and start bubbling and spattering, so don't be're doing it right. Return to medium-low heat and continue to cook until the bourbon sauce thickens a bit and alcohol is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add your cream and whisk in to combine -- this will smooth out your drizzle and give it all a nice consistency. Set aside to pour over bread pudding.

To serve, slice out a good portion of bread pudding into a bowl or plate. Drizzle generously with the bourbon drizzle and then top with sifted powdered sugar. Serve piping hot with some more bourbon!

Conversely, you can take out the bourbon and top the bread pudding with a caramel sauce and some vanilla ice cream.

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