Bread pudding represents sweet excess for Fat Tuesday

Bread pudding represents sweet excess for Fat Tuesday.
BY SHERREL JONES Modified: February 25, 2014 at 4:25 pm •  Published: February 26, 2014
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It's indulgent fun to dream up rich foods one can enjoy for the feast before Lent. I can't help but think of some of the buttery things those food-loving folks in New Orleans cook up for dessert. Bread pudding comes to mind — with raisins, a touch of citrus and of course plenty of creamy sauce loaded with rum or whiskey.

I usually start with Emeril Lagasse's recipe and modify it according to what bread I have on hand and perhaps a little less whiskey depending on who's going to be enjoying it.

Making bread pudding is a good way to use up stale or day-old bread. You can gather some end slices, leftover dinner rolls, toast and even croissants. Some folks get a little carried away and throw in doughnuts, but it is not something I recommend. Day-old French or Italian bread works quite well. If you do use some sweet rolls, you should cut back on the sugar in the recipe.

I like to use a pretty casserole dish so the pudding goes right from the oven to the table, but you can use a regular 9-by-13-inch pan if you like. The pudding can be scooped up with a serving spoon or cut in generous square portions. It is best served warm, but I wouldn't turn it down right out of the fridge.

If I know we are going to be eating the pudding right away, I like to separate the eggs and whip the whites into stiff peaks. Once the custard mixture has had a chance to soak into the bread cubes for a while, you can fold in the whites before transferring the entire mixture into the baking dish or pan. It reminds me more of the bread pudding souffles served at Commander's Palace in New Orleans.



New Orleans-Style Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

Think of this recipe as a starting point and embellish it to your heart's content.

Makes 10 to 12 servings of pudding and about 3 ½ cups whiskey sauce.

FOR THE BREAD PUDDING:

12 to 14 cups day-old French or Italian bread, in 1-inch cubes

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 cups heavy cream

4 cups whole milk

6 large eggs

1¾ cups light brown sugar

4½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1½ teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup raisins

2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

FOR THE WHISKEY SAUCE

2 cups cream

½ cup whole milk

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

¾ cup bourbon or other whiskey

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Prepare pudding:

Adjust oven rack to middle and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bread cubes in a large bowl. Melt butter and pour over bread cubes, tossing to distribute. Grease a large pan or casserole dish with softened butter.

Combine cream, milk, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and raisins in another large bowl. Whisk to mix. Pour this mixture over the bread and stir well. Let mixture sit at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes for bread to absorb liquid.

Transfer to prepared casserole dish or pan and bake on middle rack of preheated oven until middle of pudding is set, 45 to 60 minutes.

Garnish pudding with powdered sugar and serve warm with warm whiskey sauce.

Prepare whiskey sauce:

In a one-quart sauce pan over medium heat, combine cream, milk and sugar. Place cornstarch in ¼ cup of the whiskey and stir to dissolve into a slurry. Pour the slurry into the milk mixture and bring to a boil stirring constantly.

Once mixture starts to boil, reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove sauce from heat and stir in remaining ½ cup whiskey, salt and butter. Serve warm over warm pudding. Portion about ¼ cup of sauce over each serving of pudding.

Sherrel's cooking notes: 2½ cups of half-and-half can be used in pudding in lieu of cream, and 7 tablespoons of butter can be omitted, but I recommend using the full amount of cream with the milk in the whiskey sauce. With ¼ cup of the sauce per serving, each serving will get a little less than 1 tablespoon of whiskey in the sauce.

Source: Adapted from a recipe from Emeril Lagasse

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