Not much intimidates me in the kitchen, but until recently, I never even considered taking a shot at making bread pudding. There’s something about it — maybe the blend of flavors that result in an almost magical combination — that I just assumed would be out of my skill level. Something that only the most experienced, best-trained pastry chefs could achieve. Not something you whip up at home.
A few months ago I stumbled across a bread pudding recipe that got some great reviews, and I was stunned at how easy and accessible it looked. I thought, ‘this just can’t be’. But I tried it, and wow. Made a few adjustments the next time, and ‘double wow’.
This is fast and simple to make, and it does not disappoint. Give it a try the next time you’re in the mood for a decadent dessert.
Bread pudding with raisins and hard sauce
For the bread pudding:
¼ cup of melted butter
2 cups of half-and-half
2 cups of whole fat milk
1 pound of soft French bread, torn into little pieces
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3 cups of white sugar
4 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon
½ cup of raisins (optional)
For the hard sauce:
½ pound unsalted butter
1 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of brown sugar
½ cup chopped toasted pecans
¼+ cup of brandy (or more to taste — I like it strong and use ½ cup)
To make the bread pudding:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Smear the ¼ cup of melted butter in a 13” x 9” inch glass or pyrex baking dish.
Put the torn pieces of bread into a large mixing bowl and pour the half-and-half and the milk over the bread. Let it soak for 10 minutes, and then gently stir the mixture.
Add the following ingredients, in this order, gently stirring the mixture after adding each ingredient: the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and raisins if using.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
Bake in the preheated oven until the bread pudding is firm and pudding-like. This will take about 50 minutes.
To make the hard sauce:
Melt ½ pound of unsalted butter in a saucepan.
Add the heavy cream and brown sugar and stir.
Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low.
Stir in the pecans and simmer until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the brandy and stir till combined.
Simmer until the sauce thickens a bit.
To serve, place a square of the warm bread pudding on a plate and spoon a tablespoon or two of the hard sauce over it. We like it served with a dollop of whipped cream.
Don’t hesitate to play around with this recipe a bit. If raisins aren’t your thing, substitute with chocolate chips, or chopped nuts, or dried cranberries, or even chopped up bananas.
Jane Gennarelli is co-editor of LNF Weekly. She also edits the Lavaca & Friends weekly arts and entertainment newsletter.