Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Bread pudding - you either love it or hate it. I love it, as mentioned earlier this month in the Sweet Almond Bread Pudding post, and this Pumpkin version is one of my favorites.

This was a big hit with my sister Debbie last Thanksgiving and she has mentioned several times how much she loved it. Feeling slightly guilty about travelling this Thanksgiving, I wanted to make this for her before I left town. I *may* have helped myself to a serving, or two, before I gave it to Debbie.

My recipe is based on a Smitten Kitchen recipe that she adapted from a Gourmet recipe. Both the bread pudding and the sauce only take a few minutes to put together and can be made ahead and reheated, making it a perfect dessert for the holidays when oven space is at a premium. You could also put together the pudding, refrigerate it, and then cook it in the oven while eating dinner allowing the aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg to waft over the table and tease your guests.

French bread is the perfect blank canvas for the flavors of this recipe and the crusty exterior provides textural interest. Pumpkin pie spice is pretty much one stop shopping for autumnal spices but I add a dash of cardamom for a little more flavor. You could further 'spice' things up with a tablespoon, or two, of bourbon. A healthy handful of pecans add some crunch. The final touch is a cascade of rich caramel sauce that pools at the base of the pudding just waiting to be sopped up.

 I hope you give this a try and let me know what you think!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

1 loaf of French bread
3/4 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
dash cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut bread into 1 inch cubes. If the bread is fresh, place on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 10 minutes. Place butter in 8 x 8 baking dish and put in oven to melt. Once butter is melted, remove pan from oven and put bread cubes in pan. Toss bread in butter to coat. Place pumpkin, half-and-half, sugar, eggs, salt, spices, and vanilla in bowl. Whisk to mix. Pour mixture over bread crumbs. Press down bread with a spatula or your hands to ensure that all of the cubes are in the mixture. Toss pecans over top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until pudding is set. Serve warm with sauce.

Caramel Sauce
adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2000
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.
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