Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Caramel croissant bread pudding is quick fix

One amazing thing about the Internet is the number of friends you meet from all over the universe. Just plug a hobby (read obsession) into your browser, such as scuba diving, reading mysteries, or, as in my case, making bread pudding, and you have a bunch of fellow enthusiasts knocking at your door. Well, maybe not quite that close, but they’re at least within reaching distance of your computer keyboard.

One such friend is Kathy Jorgensen of California who I met while discussing cookbooks on
CookbooksEtCetera, a cookbook collectors’ group on Yahoo. Soon we found we also enjoyed collecting recipes, including some scrumptious desserts, and she shared a recipe she had found for bread pudding made with croissants, bourbon, and an incredible sounding caramel sauce.

And, surprisingly, this pudding is a quick and easy dish for today’s busy cook, created by the popular British cook, Nigella Lawson, also known as the Domestic Goddess (gee whiz, why doesn’t anyone refer to me that way?). Lawson is noted for her hands on, not fussy cooking, and eating well when time is short.

I have to admit this one is in my “to try” pile, and I hope to get to it soon. And with Nigella as a source you can’t go wrong.

(from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson)

2 stale croissants
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons bourbon (or rum)
2 eggs, beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Tear the croissants into pieces and put in a small gratin dish; I use a cast-iron oval one with a capacity of about 2 cups for this.
3. Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, and swirl around to help dissolve the sugar before putting the saucepan on the burner over medium to high heat.
4. Caramelize the sugar and water mixture by letting it bubble away until it all turns a deep amber color; this will take 3-5 minutes. Keep looking but don't be too timid.
5. Turn heat down to low and add the cream-ignoring all spluttering-and, whisking in the milk and bourbon. Any solid toffee that forms in the pan will dissolve easily if you keep whisking over low heat. Take off the heat and, still whisking, add the beaten eggs. Pour the caramel bourbon over the croissants and leave to steep for 10 minutes if the croissants are very stale.
6. Place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes and prepare to swoon.
Serves 2 greedy people

Monday, May 26, 2008

White chocolate bread pudding New Orleans style is a Palace Cafe tradition

What better way to wind up this holiday weekend than with one incredible bread pudding! And it’s from a place where bread pudding reigns supreme – New Orleans. This family specialty, definitely not your ‘usual’ offering, is a featured dessert at the acclaimed Palace Café, located on historic Canal Street. The Brennan family shares their recipe for White Chocolate Bread Pudding in their cookbook, Palace Café: The Flavor of New Orleans.

We thank Pepe, who gets to enjoy New Orleans cuisine every day in that “kingdom of great food,” for alerting us to this outstanding recipe.

As for calories? Don’t even think about it!

(from Palace Café: The Flavor of New Orleans)
12 Servings

6 cups whipping cream

2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
20 ounces white chocolate (broken into small pieces)
4 each whole eggs
15 each egg yolks
24-inch loaf French bread (use stale bread)
For White Chocolate Sauce:

8 ounces white chocolate (broken into small pieces)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 ounce dark chocolate (grated for garnish)

To Prepare Bread Pudding: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan, heat the whipping cream, milk, and sugar over medium heat. When hot, take off the heat and add the white chocolate pieces; stir until melted. Combine the whole eggs and egg yolks in a large bowl. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the eggs in a steady stream, whipping the eggs as you pour. Place the stale sliced bread in the pan. Pour 1/2 the bread pudding mix over the bread. Use your fingers to press the bread into the mix so that it absorbs the liquid and becomes soggy. Pour in the remaining mix. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and continue to bake for 1/2 hour until it is set and golden brown.
To Prepare Sauce: Bring the cream to a boil in a small sauce pan. Take off the heat and add white chocolate; stir until smooth and completely melted. Spoon over bread pudding.
To Serve: Serve the bread pudding warm, spooned right out of the pan with the sauce and chocolate sprinkles on top.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Brunch bread pudding says 'cheese'

Spring posies were in glorious array in southern New Hampshire where I attended a writers’ conference last weekend. Creative energy blossomed forth there also, with poets and writers of both fiction and nonfiction sharing their best work.

At the workshop on food writing, presenter Rachel Forrest entertained us with tales of her experiences as restaurant critic and reporter on the local food scene. As food and dining editor for Seacoast Media Group in Portsmouth, restaurant critic for The Portsmouth Herald, and columnist and radio commentator, Rachel has a wealth of knowledge. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and Internet publications. (For info, check out, or

She also brought some goodies for us to sample – an olive oil crisp bread, chocolate pizzelle, and chunks of piquant aged Parmesan. Of course, my one-track mind immediately turned to bread pudding. Wondering how I could include these items in a bread pudding creation, or at least serve them as an aside.

Later at home I found a terrific brunch recipe that features Parmesan cheese along with some Brie and pork sausage. The recipe source, The Life of the Party cookbook, published by the Junior League of Tampa, calls it a soufflé, but we know better – it’s really a bread pudding in disguise.

This one’s for you, Rachel. Thanks for the inspiration!

(from The Life of the Party, by the junior League of Tampa Culinary Collection, 2003)

6 slices white bread
1 pound hot bulk pork sausage, browned, drained
3/4 pound Brie cheese, rind removed, cubed
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
5 eggs
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups milk
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 eggs
1 cup whipping cream

Trim crusts from bread slices and place crusts evenly on bottom of lightly greased 9x13-inch baking dish. Layer bread slices, sausage, Brie, and Parmesan in baking dish. Whisk 5 eggs and 2 cups whipping cream in bowl. Add milk, sage, seasoned salt, and dry mustard; mix well. Pour over bread layers. Chill, covered, for 8 hours. Whisk 2 eggs and 1 cup whipping cream in bowl. Pour over prepared layers. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour or until center is set and knife inserted in center comes out clean. You may substitute half & half for whipping cream. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Yard-sale bread pudding celebrates weekend ritual

Some sure signs of a spring weekend are posted on poles, trees, and in front lawns here in our Rhode Island seashore community. And even the Today Show had a feature this morning on that familiar ritual where folks attempt to get rid of the flotsam and jetsam that’s been tucked away in closets, basements, and shelves. Yard sales are in full swing.

In our own kitchen also we have odds and ends – a whole-grain-bread heel, a handful of granola, half a Gala apple sitting in a plastic bag in the fridge – that need to be either used or tossed. Tossed? Did we say tossed? Not when there’s a bread pudding panting to use up these ingredients. And, in fact, that was the idea behind the original bread puddings – a way to use up stale bread and other foods to provide an economical and tasty dish.

So, here goes. We cut up the bread heel into chunks and tossed it into a casserole dish along with some blueberry granola and some cut-up apple chunks. The granola, which I made a few weeks ago, contains rolled oats, cashew halves, sunflower seeds, molasses, and honey. And, because I added no additional sweetener to the custard mixture, I decided to add the remaining contents from a bag of mini chocolate chips. Okay, actually I can always find an excuse to use chocolate.

So this is oddball collection of ingredients. But isn’t that what yard sales are all about? Thebookcase with the warped shelves, the antique lamp with the crack in the base, and that collection of old National Geographics.

As I write this, the pudding is about to come out of the oven.It’s puffing up, looking good. Hooray for the yard sale for providing the inspiration for this new creation.


Cooking spray
1 end slice (heel) from 15-grain, whole grain bread (almost a cup)
1/2 cup blueberry granola (or granola of your choice)
1/3 cup chopped apple (with skins on if you’d like)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
2 large eggs
1-1/4 cups 1 percent milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon melted butter

Spray a 1-1/2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Scatter bottom of dish with bread cubes, granola, chopped apples, and chocolate chips. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. Pour over bread mixture. Sprinkle top with melted butter, then cinnamon-sugar to taste. Let mixture stand about 30 minutes to let bread absorb liquid. Bake in preheated 350-degree F. oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until pudding is puffy, firm, and browned on top. Serve warm or at room temp with topping of your choice such as whipped cream or ice cream. Serves 4.
© 2008, Recipe by Portia Little.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Low-cal pretzel bread pudding is chocolate lover's delight

One of the myths about bread puddings is that they’re off the high-calorie charts. Off limits to dieters.

And alas it is true that many, if not most, bread puddings contain rich ingredients such as cream, eggs, and butter that are a no-no to someone watching his or her weight. But occasionally a gem of a recipe comes along, such as today’s Philly Pretzel Bread Pudding, that’s not only delicious but is also a mere 190 calories per serving.

We found this recipe on an index card last night while trying to sort through the jungle of recipes we’ve clipped and saved over time. I must have taken it from Cooking Smart magazine, which I subscribed to for a time. A check on the Web, however, reveals that this publication has ceased publication. But at least we have retained one of its great recipes. Here’s to bread pudding, and also keeping fit!

(from Cooking Smart magazine)

Vegetable oil cooking spray
6 Philadelphia-style soft pretzels (frozen is okay; thaw first)
1-1/2 cups liquid egg substitute
2-1/2 cups nonfat milk
1/2 cup chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Spray 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Poke holes in soft pretzels with fork, then cut or break pretzels into 1-inch pieces, and place in baking dish.
Whisk together egg substitute, nonfat milk, chocolate syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon; mix well. Pour over pretzels; stir to coat. Let stand for 1 hour to allow pretzels to absorb some of the liquid mixture.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Cover baking dish with foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake an additional 25 minutes or until browned and puffed and knife comes out clean.
Serves 12.
Per serving: 190 calories, 36 calories from fat, 4g fat, 2g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 31 carbs, 1g fiber, 8g protein, 410mg sodium, 321mg calcium, 4mg iron.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hot dog bun bread pudding is post-party favorite

We partied on yesterday.

It was the best Mom’s Day ever, with my three offspring and their spouses here along with their (collective) six kids as well as my daughter’s MIL and husband (would that be DMIL+H ?), Jan and John. We never lack for fabulous food and yesterday was no exception. With perfect cookout weather, Bob and John handled the grill chores, cranking out the burgers and franks. To go along we enjoyed Jan’s strawberry-spinach salad, my home-made bean salsa (for Dave), and lotsa fixin’s. And of course, there were plenty of sweets, including carrot cake made by Matt, Sarah’s birthday cake, and some of my fresh strawberry sorbet. Everyone helped make it a super day, including Katie, Kerri, Paul, Autumn, Isabelle, Jasmine, Jack, Skye, and Connor.

No bread pudding? you ask. We made up for that missing element today.

The slightly stale hot dog bun was staring me in the face this morning, begging to be made into a delectable bread pudding. And so we did, adding some chopped Newman’s Own Organic apricots, and a spoonful or two of salted cashew chunks.

No exaggeration. This is one of the very best bread puddings I’ve ever made! (And no, I don’t say that all the time.) I know what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow. If there’s any left.


1/2 of a day-old hot-dog bun, cubed
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots (such as Newman’s Own Organic)
1/8 cup chopped roasted and salted cashews
1 large egg
1/3 cup half & half or whole milk
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Scatter bread cubes in 1-1/2-pint (or up to 4-cup size) ceramic baking dish that has been buttered or sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle with chopped apricots and cashews. In medium bowl, whisk together egg, milk, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. Pour over bread mixture in pan. Let stand about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, and bake about 45 minutes, or until top is browned and crispy and pudding is firm.
Serve warm or at room temp with whipped cream. Serves 2 to 4.
© 2008, Recipe by Portia Little.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Jalapeno cornbread pudding is zesty brunch dish

Okay, we admit it. We have a sweet tooth. We can leave the main course to another cook, and just focus on dessert. We’re not too picky when it comes to dessert ingredients either. And while we jump at the first chance to add chocolate, other ingredients beckon – apples and cinnamon, fresh strawberries, cream cheese, pears, blueberries, brandy – well the possibilities are endless when it comes to great dessert ingredients.

But, oh no, I’ve done it again. Gotten sidetracked by the dessert tray.

Today’s post is about a hearty bread pudding. Honest. And to prove it, here’s a recipe for a wonderful bread pudding that’s made with cornbread and enhanced with the addition of sweet onions, jalapeno jack cheese, and also fresh or frozen corn. For those who like a little zip in their bread pudding, this dish should hit the spot.


1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1-1/4 cups fresh cut corn (or frozen, thawed)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups half & half
6 cups crumbled cornbread
1-1/2 cups shredded jalapeno jack cheese, divided (1 cup, and 1/2 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced (optional)

Saute onion and corn in oil until onion is translucent. In large bowl, combine eggs, half & half, cornbread, 1 cup cheese, salt and pepper. Pour mixture into greased 8- or 9-inch square pan. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese and jalapeno pepper slices if using. Let stand about 20 minutes.
Set pan in larger pan filled halfway up with hot water; bake in preheated 325-degree oven 50-60 minutes or until pudding is firm and browned on top. Serves 6 to 8.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Praline brunch toast is Mom's Day treat

So what is a “real” bread pudding and “not-quite” a bread pudding? I’d say if it walks like a duck…

Traditional bread puddings have been made with chunks of bread, eggs, a milk product, a sweetener or not, some flavoring, and whatever else suits your fancy – from the ever popular raisins and cinnamon, to more innovative choices such as plums, apricots, and any kind of chocolate your heart desires. Or for a savory bread pudding, some asparagus and Boursin.

And sometimes we don’t chop up the bread, but leave it in slices, such as in today’s recipe for Praline Brunch Toast that I found in the Junior League of Tampa cookbook, The Life of the Party. We’re thinking this would make a wonderful Mother’s Day dish, maybe even for ‘breakfast in bed.’ Just add a small vase of colorful flowers on the breakfast tray, some good coffee, and a few pieces of fresh fruit such as sliced oranges or strawberries for a lovely morning meal.

One of the nice things about this recipe is that you can assemble all the ingredients the night before (and hide them somewhere in the fridge if it’s going to be a surprise), then bake the dish in the morning. I actually make up the entire dish, including the brown sugar-pecan mixture with the bread slices on top, and refrigerate it overnight. Also, it makes a big panful, so there will be enough to go around for the rest of the family too.

Today we’re going to add a new category to the recipes list on the sidebar: “Almost a Bread Pudding,” for those dishes such as this one that contain most of the usual suspects, but with some variation on the bread pudding theme, such as sliced bread instead of cubed.

Here’s to a great Mom’s day celebration!

(from the Junior League of Tampa cookbook, The Life of the Party)

8 eggs
1-1/2 cups half & half
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 thick slices sourdough bread
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Beat eggs and half & half in small bowl. Whisk in 1 tablespoon brown sugar and vanilla. Pour 1/2 of egg mixture into 9x13-inch baking dish. Arrange bread slices in dish, trimming crusts to fit if necessary. Pour remaining egg mixture over bread. Chill, covered, for several hours or overnight.

Melt butter in another 9x13-inch baking dish. Stir in 3/4 cup brown sugar and syrup. Sprinkle pecans over bottom. Place egg-soaked bread slices carefully on top of pecans. Pour remaining egg mixture over bread. Bake in preheated 350-degree-F. oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until bread is light brown and puffed.
To serve, invert toast onto plates and spoon pecans from bottom of dish over the toast. Serves 8.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Whole wheat bread pudding is studded with cherries

My shelves are lined with cookbooks. And while many of them are just collector’s items, such as the early 20th-century books that belonged to my mom, there are many books that I turn to again and again to cook from. One of my recent acquisitions is the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Book.

I’ve tried several recipes from this book, with great results – the Sour Cream Muffins (I added fresh blueberries), Simple Spelt Pancakes (a good, thick buckwheat-like pancake), the Cherry Chocolate Scones, and the Maple Granola, to name just a few.

The book also features some tempting bread pudding recipes, which I have tagged for my ever-growing to-try list, such as the Cherry-Almond Bread Pudding below. I have such confidence in the quality of the recipes in this book that I don’t think there’s a single thing that won’t come out really great. The book gives a few tips for making bread puddings with whole grain breads, some of which I list below.

(Suggestions from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook)
- Use a “slightly sweet, soft whole wheat bread, unless you plan to let the bread soak overnight before baking.”
- Increase the liquid-to-bread ratio when using whole grain breads, and give the bread a long period of time to absorb the custard.
- To speed up the process, “heat the liquid in the recipe, whisk it into the eggs, and pour the warm custard over the bread to soak while the oven preheats.”
- For a lower-fat bread pudding, use low-fat milk, but don’t heat it. Instead whisk it into the eggs, and let the bread soak up the liquid, at least an hour, or overnight.

(from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking)
Yield: 16 servings

3 cups (12 ounces) frozen sour cherries or 2 (15-ounce) cans, drained
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cups (9 ounces) cubed, fresh whole wheat bread
3 large eggs
2 cups (16 ounces) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (1-7/8 ounces) packed light or dark brown sugar
1 cup (3 ounces) sliced almonds

Pudding: Place cherries, sugar, and cinnamon in large mixing bowl. Stir to coat cherries. Add bread cubes. In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, extracts and salt. Pour egg mixture over bread cubes in bowl and stir to coat bread thoroughly. Let mixture sit for 30 minutes so bread can soak up egg mixture.
While bread is soaking, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. and butter 9-inch pan.
Topping: Melt butter in medium saucepan. Stir in brown sugar and cook until sugar melts and mixture is bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in almonds; set aside.
Pour pudding mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes; remove from oven and sprinkle topping evenly over pudding. Return to oven and bake until pudding is puffed and set, and sides are pulling away from edges of pan, 25 to 30 minutes. A clean knife inserted in center will come out almost clean. Remove pudding from oven and let cool 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm with ice cream.

Cinco de Mayo Bread Pudding is festive

It’s time for mariachis, margaritas, and more! Today here in the Ocean State, folks will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo by chomping down on some great Mexican food at restaurants such as The Original Cactus Grille in Providence.

And here at home, “south of the Providence border,” we’ll whip up a bread pudding that’s full of golden raisins, Mexican chocolate, and rum. The bread is drying in the kitchen as we speak. This pudding serves 20, so it’s party time!

(recipe from the California Raisin Marketing Board)

8 cups dry bread, cut in 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup good-quality bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped into chip-size pieces
1 cup California golden raisins, soaked in 1/4 cup dark rum
4 large eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13x9x1 1/2-inch glass or nonreactive baking pan. Spread bread cubes in pan; sprinkle chocolate pieces and raisins evenly on top and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk remaining ingredients together. Pour over the bread mixture. Let stand for about 5 minutes.
Place pan containing pudding inside larger pan filled with hot water to halfway up the sides of the pudding pan. Bake, uncovered, about 40 minutes at 350°F or until sharp knife inserted in center of pudding comes out clean.
To serve, cut into 20 squares. Serve warm.
Visit for more Raisin Recipes.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Kentucky Derby bread pudding is the favorite

“The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” occurs today as twenty horses leave the gates for the 134th Kentucky derby. And, while some fans of this Run for the Roses will be sipping mint juleps, in our house we’ll be chomping down on a rich bread pudding, laden with chocolate and chopped walnuts.

This pudding is a take-off on the traditonal Derby Pie, which is almost as famous in Kentucky as the Kentucky Derby itself. And while chopped walnuts and bourbon are featured in the standard versions, some also contain chocolate, which without a doubt we had to include.

Baked in a standard glass pie pan, this pudding puffed up nicely while baking, and the chocolate chips melted to a sensuous gooey texture. Now it’s out of the oven and the house smells like a chocolate factory. We plan to cut generous wedges of this luscious “pie” and serve topped with a rich vanilla ice cream.

This one’s for Kas Winters in Arizona, a fan of chocolate if there ever was one. She runs a delightful and informative website,, which is loaded with family ideas and projects as well as some great gifts – it’s a winner every day.


3 to 4 slices bread, cubed
Cooking spray
1/4 cup butter, melted
1-1/4 cups chocolate chips (or more if you’d like)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup half & half or heavy cream
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon

Scatter bread cubes in 9- or 10-inch glass pie plate that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Toss bread cubes with melted butter. Sprinkle on chocolate chips and walnuts. In saucepan, heat milk/cream until just about scalding. In large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Slowly add hot liquid to egg mixture, stirring constantly; mix in bourbon. Pour liquid over bread mixture.

Let stand about 15 minutes for bread to absorb liquid. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake 45-60 minutes, or until pudding puffs up and browns on top. Serve warm or at room temp with a big glob of vanilla bean ice cream. Serves 8.
© 2008, Recipe by Portia Little.

Warm brioche bread pudding is perfect weekend comfort food

Spring is hesitating to join us this weekend. Cloudy and drizzly here on the Rhode Island shoreline, not a good beach day. But there are some compensations - we can put off weeding the garden and spreading the mulch that’s waiting outside on the driveway.

And, instead, we’ll create some comfort inside – a warm bread pudding made from a tender brioche, and filled with raisins and apples that have been soaked in a simple syrup enhanced with rum. I’ve discovered an excellent, too-good-to-be-true-but-it’s-for-real site for bread pudding recipes – it’s from the California Raisin board – . I’m in bread pudding heaven just looking at their recipes, which include such goodies as applesauce bread pudding, California raisin bread pudding with caramel sauce and bananas foster, and a lemon raisin bread soufflé, to name just a few.

The California Raisin folks describe this brioche treat as a “light and saucy rum-flavored pudding,” and they suggest serving this pudding with a raspberry sauce. I don’t have the exact size pan they call for in the recipe, so will use perhaps an 8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. So here we go off to the market to get some eggs, egg bread, and raspberries. Cloudy days aren’t so bad after all.

Warm Brioche Bread Pudding with California Raisins, Apples and a Berry Sauce

Rum Simple Syrup:
1/4 cup rum
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

1 cup California raisins
1 cup apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 quart milk
1 cup sugar
8 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 loaf brioche or light egg bread (14 oz. to 1-1/2 lbs.), sliced lengthwise 1/4-inch thick
Melted butter for brushing pan
1/4 cup pure crystal cane sugar, clear not colored

Berry Sauce:
1 pint raspberries
1/4 cup rum simple syrup

Sweetened whipped cream for garnish

Rum Simple Syrup: In small saucepan, bring rum, water and sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling 1 minute. Cool completely. Mix raisins and apple with 1/2 cup simple syrup. Set aside. Reserve 1/4 cup simple syrup for berry sauce.

Custard: Whisk all ingredients until mixture is fully combined.

To Assemble: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Brush 6x8x2-inch baking pan with melted butter. Line bottom of pan with one layer bread. Place 1/3 of raisins and apples on bread; pour 1/3 of custard over all. Repeat 2 more times and top with final layer of bread. There should be 4 layers of bread and 3 layers of raisin-apple and custard mixtures. Sprinkle top with crystal sugar.

Place baking pan inside a larger baking pan. Fill larger pan with hot water until it comes halfway up sides of smaller pan, or just until it seems like smaller pan is floating. Bring water to a boil on top of stove. Cover pudding with foil (if baking pan doesn’t have secure-fitted top) and place in oven; bake at 325 degrees F. about 40 minutes or until a shake of the pan produces a firm jiggle. Bake another 15 minutes, uncovered, until golden brown.

Berry Sauce: Meanwhile, puree raspberries and reserved syrup in food processor to a smooth, sauce consistency; refrigerate until ready to use.

To Serve: Cut pudding into 8 squares. Divide and ladle sauce onto each of 8 individual plates. Arrange a piece of pudding on top of sauce and top with whipped cream.
Serves 8.
Visit for more raisin recipes.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

No-Knead for this yeast bread

Before the pudding, there is the bread.

And, while making yeast breads is one of my cooking passions, usually my home-baked ones don’t last long enough to be used for a bread pudding.

Recently I’ve been making an incredibly easy yeast bread right from scratch. Now, granted, usually you don’t use the words “easy” and “yeast bread” in the same sentence, but in this case it’s the real deal. The recipe, from the cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, produces a quick-stir dough that can sit in the fridge for up to two weeks. When you want to make a loaf, just scoop up a handful of dough, shape it, let it rest, and bake for about a half hour. The result is so good, you’ll want to make this one again and again. I usually put a pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven when the bread is baking to ensure a hearty crust.

One thing that makes people nervous about making yeast breads is the temperature of the water – if the water isn’t just warm enough, the bread won’t come out. Pooey on that worry. I don’t use a thermometer to measure; just dip a finger in the water – just warm seems to do it. And it’s a good idea too, to warm up your cold mixing bowl before you add the water – to do this, just add some hot tap water to the bowl, then pour it out before adding the amount of water called for in the recipe.

A friend of mine, Jean Donnelly, subs wheat flour for some of the white in this bread, with great results. She substitutes two-thirds cup of whole wheat for two-thirds cup of unbleached flour. “Yummy with a crunchy, crackly crust,” she raves.

So I say, “Go for it!” If you’ve ever wanted to make yeast bread, this is a great way to start.

(from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois)

3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees)
1-1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1-1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
6-1/2 cups all-purpose white flour (no need to sift)

In 5-quart bowl, combine yeast, water and salt. Add all flour, then use wooden spoon to mix until all ingredients are uniformly moist. It is not necessary to knead or continue mixing once ingredients are wet. This will produce a loose and very wet dough.
Cover with lid (not airtight), or plastic wrap with several holes poked into it. Allow mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse, about 2 hours, but no more than 4 hours.
After rising, dough can be baked immediately, or tightly covered and refrigerated for up to 14 days. The dough will be easier to work with after at least 3 hours of refrigeration.
Remove desired amount of dough from batch and place on pizza peel (or other flat surface) that has been dusted with cornmeal. When dough has rested for 40 minutes, dust top liberally with flour, then use serrated knife to slash a cross or tic-tactoe pattern into top.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Slide loaf onto baking stone or baking sheet. Quickly but carefully pour 1 cup hot water into broiler tray on bottom rack of oven, and close oven door. Bake about 30 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned and firm to touch. Allow bread to cool completely, preferable on wire cooking rack. Makes four 1-pound loaves.