Oh 2016. What a year you were. No matter who you are or what your views are, I’m sure we can unanimously agree: 2016 left us in dire need of some comforting.
Comfort in a warm fire. Comfort in friends, in family. Comfort in food.
(shameless transition here we go..)
Comfort in bread pudding.
This bread pudding gets a flavor promotion with the addition of bananas and then a soul-soothing hot butter bourbon sauce. And yes, it does taste as good as it sounds.
Bread puddings have decidedly become one of my favorite desserts to make, and for a few reasons. First of all, I’m not a pastry chef by any means- I’ve slowly begun to learn the techniques involved in baking, which means I make mistakes sometimes quite often. But, you really can’t mess up a bread pudding. It’s a simple formula: bread, milk, sugar, and spices. The fun part is deciding which spices, add-ins, or sauces to use.
Which brings me to the next reason why I love bread puddings: you can be as creative as you want. Out of raisins? Add dried apples or coconut flakes. Nuts. Chocolate. Cream. Frozen or fresh fruit. All great additions. I added bananas because I had some sitting on the counter gettin’ a little too ripe (does any one else prefer their bananas slightly under ripe? No? Is it just me?). They caramelized and melded beautifully with the buttery bourbon and vanilla flavors. If you’ve got some, definitely add the bananas.
Bread puddings have humble beginnings, going back to hundreds of years ago when every food scrap was not to be wasted. Even bread crumbs or old crackers were tossed in, and reinvented into a delectable brunch treat. Now, it is a staple on New Orleans’ dessert menus, and appears at trendy or upscale restaurants.
The recipe here was adapted from Joy of Cooking’s New Orleans Bread Pudding Recipe. Ugh. I’d travel to New Orleans for the food alone. Behind the Grand Canyon, New York City, and Hawaii (cause, well, Hawaii) New Orleans has been climbing towards the top of my list for cities to visit in the US. What places would be on your top list to visit in the US? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂
I think what makes this New Orleans style is the addition of the bourbon sauce, but I’m not sure. All I know is that the flavors are amazing, so New Orleans: here’s to you. We shall meet someday.
Making the Bread Pudding
It begins with a crusty bread. A good Italian or French Loaf will do. Similar to how you would make Thanksgiving stuffing, if you want the best texture, use slightly stale – but not completely hard – bread. The drier the bread is, the easier it soaks up the liquid.
You’ll either tear or slice the bread up, soak it in a sauce for about an hour, and pop it in the oven to bake. While you’re waiting for it to finish baking, get started on the sauce.
Making the Hot Butter Bourbon Sauce
Now, for the bourbon sauce! For the bourbon, I used Brown Sugar Bourbon. It’s made by Heritage Distilling Co., which happens to be located in Gig Harbor, WA- only an hour drive from where I live. I grabbed it because I’ve always wanted to try it and it sounded like it would match the flavor profiles I had goin’ on here. It definitely did. But honestly, any good bourbon or whiskey will do the trick! I would dare to say that even a rum would be delicious in the sauce. If you do decide to use a sweeter bourbon as I did here, I’d suggest to either reduce or omit the added sugar altogether otherwise it will end up cloyingly sweet.
Even though it’s simple to make and cooks up in about 10 minutes, it packs a punch in the flavor department. Drizzle over your freshly baked bread pudding, and serve with some cold milk and warm friends.
I made this bread pudding for my new neighbors. I love the tradition of welcoming new people in your neighborhood with something you made from your own home, your own hands. Despite all the wonderful ways we can connect with others across the world through the internet, there is still a profound intimacy that comes with reaching out and saying : Welcome to the community- we may not know you yet, but we are thrilled that we have a chance to.
So let’s say good-bye to 2016 and hello to 2017. Perhaps this year we could all benefit from a stronger sense of community, embracing the differences in others- and yes- eating a lot, lot, more bread pudding.
What are your favorite traditions? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!
Happy New Year,