Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bread Pudding with Fruit Compote & Bourbon Sauce

Ahh, bread pudding. This bread-based dessert is popular all over the world, but here in the US, it's really most popular in the Deep South, specifically in Cajun Country. Reserved typically for special occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas and the occasional birthday/anniversary dinner, bread pudding SEEMS a lot harder to prepare than it actually is. In fact, bread pudding can EASILY be prepared ahead of time, and re-heated when needed. The sauce and compote can be made ahead, too - I prefer to make everything the night before!

Bread pudding was born out of poverty and provides a great way to reuse stale leftover bread; it is simply soaked overnight with an egg/dairy mixture, flavored with spices and fruits, and baked. Topped with a whiskey, rum or caramel sauce, this decadent dessert is perfect for Thanksgiving, and is one of the dishes that I chose for our family gathering this year. The BF is a huge fan of bread pudding, so let's see if mine will live up to his expectations!

The bread used is typically French bread, in true Cajun form, but I choose to use challah or brioche due to the "eggyness" of the bread. Instead of baking raisins into the pudding, I made a fruit compote to top the pudding along with a rich, sticky bourbon sauce. Loosen those belts, y'all!

Bread Pudding with Fruit Compote & Bourbon Sauce
adapted from Real Simple and Emeril Lagasse

Bread Pudding: 
1 lb challah or brioche, cut into 1" pieces (about 10 cups)
8 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Fruit Compote: 
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup dried apricots, cut into quarters
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
2 Tbsp bourbon
Bourbon Sauce: 
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup bourbon
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Prepare the Bread Pudding: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13x9" baking dish and set aside. Place challah/brioche pieces in the dish.

Combine the eggs, cream, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Pour over challah/brioche pieces, pressing the bread down to submerge in the egg mixture. Let sit for 30 minutes, pressing down on the bread occasionally.

Sprinkle bread with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Place small cubes of butter evenly over the top. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until set and golden brown, about 55-65 minutes, tenting with foil if necessary. Serve warm.

*If you want to make the bread pudding ahead of time, simply reheat it by allowing it to come to room temperature and warming in a 350-degree oven for 30-40 minutes.*

Prepare the Fruit Compote: Combine the orange juice, sugar, salt, apricots, raisins and cherries/cranberries in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and the fruits are soft. Remove from heat and stir in the bourbon. Serve warm.

*Both the compote and bourbon sauce can be made ahead of time and simply reheated before serving*

Prepare the Bourbon Sauce: Combine the cream, milk and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup bourbon in a small bowl to form a slurry. Slowly whisk the bourbon slurry into the cream mixture and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the salt, butter and remaining bourbon. Serve warm.

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