Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sweet and Savory Bread Puddings

Butternut Squash Pudding
It's difficult writing about food as Keri and I do, because we're always staring at beautiful glossy photos of food, which kind of makes you hungry a lot of the time.  Especially if you are researching our current foodie topic - comfort food.  Ahhhhh. 

Under the aegis of comfort food, we decided we just had to write about bread pudding, which is one of my all time favorite desserts. I confess; I'm a carboholic. This is my type of food...

What I didn't properly appreciate is that there are just as many savory versions of this pudding as there are sweet versions.

Inspired by my online trawl, I rustled up this Butternut Squash and Parmasan Bread Pudding.  Now this is lush.  Double cream, eggs, parmasan and sweet butternut squash define this special occasion dish.  But will the rest of the family like it?  Don't know yet -- but I will let you know.  One of the best things about bread pudding is that you can leave it at various stages of done-ness. 
  • You can soak the ingredients overnight,
  • or even leave for an extra day until you are ready to bake it,
  • alternatively bake it, stick it in the fridge and reheat it when you are ready to use it. 
  • It also freezes well if you need to keep the baked pudding for longer. 
Another recipe which I like the sound of (as I still have plenty of baked ham hanging around in my freezer) is this Savory Bread Pudding with Ham, courtesy of The Food Network.  This is on my "to make" list.

Most people when they think of bread pudding quite rightly think of the sweet version.  We've pumped Bill Beck, owner and chef at Beck's Cajun Cafe, for the recipe for his best-selling bread pudding.  While pumpkin or apple pie might be the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert on East Coast Thanksgiving tables, in Beck’s Cajun CafĂ©’s food hub of New Orleans, you’d just as likely see bread pudding. Beck’s owner Bill Beck does not dare to show up at his wife’s family’s Thanksgiving gathering without several trays of this pudding, which features the fall-favorite apple-caramel flavors. 

To see what all the fuss is about, drop into Reading Terminal Market and try some of his bread pudding with his trademark whisky sauce.  Or if you're so inclined, make it yourself....

Beck's Bread Pudding

10 eggs

3 1/4 cups light brown sugar 

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

Pinch of nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 quarts heavy cream
1 pint whole milk
2 tablespoons water
1 large skin-on apple, cut into 1/8-inch slices

2 tablespoons butter

                                                    1/4 cup raisins 

                                                    8 cups, day-old or stale bread cubes (1x1 inch),  crusts removed            

Butter a 9 by 12 baking dish. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Add eggs to a mixing bowl and mix to combine yolks and whites. Add 2 3/4 cups of the light brown sugar and the rest of ingredients down through the whole milk and mix well. Taste the custard to see if you like the way it tastes (If not, add more cinnamon and/or nutmeg).
Place a one-quart saucepot on the stove with the water and the reserved 1/2 cup of light brown sugar on a medium flame and stir. When the mixture starts to simmer, stir continuously for one minute to reduce and marry the sugar and water fully. Turn off the heat, remove from the stove and gently stir in the butter. Set aside.
Pour all the warm faux caramel sauce evenly over all the apple slices (reheat it if it’s not hot enough to pour easily or if too much is stuck to the bottom of the pot). Scatter the bread cubes evenly over the sauce; then do the same with the custard and the raisins. Push the cubed bread into the custard mix; do this two more times over the next 20 minutes so the bread has evenly absorbed the custard.
Place on center rack of the oven for two hours or until the inside is moist but the top is light brown and crispy. Serve warm with ice cream, macerated fruit or whiskey sauce (as is the custom at Beck’s).
Serves 8 to 10.

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