Elevating Flavors: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel-Pecan Sauce

Elevating Flavors: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel-Pecan Sauce

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To be honest, Bread Pudding is my least favorite dessert. In all the restaurants I’ve dined at, I’ve only recall ordering Bread Pudding once at Bouquet Book Bar & Cafe (Shanghai on Beijing Xi Lu) after a friend begged me to try her dish. It was delicious but since then I really haven’t had another good Bread Pudding dessert.

It just so happens that National Pumpkin Day coincides with the fact that I also have a loaf of French bread getting hard in my kitchen. I love pumpkin. I don’t think I’ve ever had a pumpkin dessert that I didn’t lick the dish after eating. I also found a recipe by an amazing Food Blogger who has never let me down. These three factors combined and it felt like an omen that I should make Pumpkin Bread Pudding.

I like to work with fresh ingredients but this recipe called for canned pumpkin puree.

If not prepared properly bread pudding can be a yucky mushy mess, which is why I think I have an aversion to it. Here are a couple tips for making a successful bread pudding:

  • How to Avoid Mushy Bread Pudding:
    1. Use a hearty bread like brioche, challah or french baguette as opposed to white sandwich bread. Sandwich bread does not give you the structure you need to create a crispy texture.
    2. Gently fold the pudding into the bread. Use a soft spatula for best results, remembering to fold, not stir together.
  • How to Avoid Dry Bread Pudding:
    1. Make sure you have enough pudding to completely soak your bread otherwise it’ll be dry.
    2. The bread should be crusty and stale. Leave the bread on the counter overnight or cube it then put it in the oven for 10-15 minutes to get a crunchy texture.
    3. Cover the pan in foil for the first 15 minutes then remove the foil and continue baking. This is just another step to ensure that the dessert does not come out dry.
  • How to Avoid Boring Bread Pudding:
    1. Be creative with your add ins. While I used pumpkin, you could also incorporate raisins, pecans, walnuts, different spices, figs, apples, bananas, cranberries…..
    2. Grease the pan with butter as opposed to cooking spray to create an extra crunch and make it easier to remove from the pan.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk (Or 1 cup heavy cream plus 1/2 cup whole milk)IMG_83613/4 cup packed fresh pumpkin and drained from liquid
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
  • 5 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old baguette or crusty bread
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted* (can skip this step if using the second set of instructions)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
  2. Whisk together pumpkin, cream, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, spices and bourbon, if using, in a bowl.
  3. Toss bread cubes with butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and fold to coat.
  4. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking dish and bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes.

I inadvertently doubling the amount of bread to cups! Luckily I had enough of the other ingredients to double the entire recipe. So now tonight’s book club will also get to enjoy the delicious Pumpkin Bread Pudding.

It is my humble opinion that any good Bread Pudding has a sauce that you can spoon over to make it even better. I once had a pumpkin pie with a caramel-pecan sauce that was TO DIE FOR! Now I am salivating for the the pecan-caramel-pumpkin concoction! I found a great recipe from Ina Garten that she used for Caramel Pecan Sundaes. It’s easy to follow and let’s be honest- anything by Ina Garten has to be amazing right?

IMG_8372Caramel-Pecan Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Toasted pecans

Directions:

  1. Toast pecans in 350 degree oven for 6-10 minutes.
  2. Mix 1/3 cup water and the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook, without stirring, over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown (about 350 degrees F on a candy thermometer), 5 to 7 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Be careful; the mixture is extremely hot!
  4. Watch the mixture constantly at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly
  5. Turn off the heat.
  6. Stand back to avoid splattering and slowly add the cream and vanilla. The cream will FullSizeRender 36bubble violently and the caramel will solidify; don’t worry.
  7. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add toasted pecans
  9. Allow to cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. It will thicken as it sits.

While Ina says the caramel will reach 350 degrees in about 10 minutes, mine took almost 25 minutes total time to get to that stage. Be patient with your caramel sauce and make sure it gets that perfect amber color before adding the cream. And she wasn’t joking… the caramel will bubble like crazy when you add the cream so watch out!! You can kind of see how much it bubbled in the picture. Use a larger pot to avoid overflowing the caramel sauce.

Top the Pumpkin Bread Pudding with a generous dollop of Caramel-Pecan Sauce and get ready to lick the dish clean!

FullSizeRender 37

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