Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Roasted Pear Bread Pudding

As I've mentioned before, bread pudding and I haven't always been friends. Which really is a shame. Think of all the years I missed out on sweet gooey goodness because of a fear of soggy bread. But now I'm a big fan. Because there are few ways better to serve slightly stale bread than soaked in sugared and spiced milk and cream. Yum.
This bread pudding is perfect for early fall. It's warm and gingery and inviting. The pre-roasting of the pears releases the sweet pear juice (and don't worry, it doesn't take long), and tossing the bread in with the pears allows the flavors to meld. So don't even think about just chopping up the pears and throwing everything in a bowl. You must roast them first! Once roasting is complete, the pudding is added to the pears and bread. Now depending on how well you remove the crust from the bread, you may have a little more or less pudding. I personally prefer my bread-to-pudding ratio to be a little heavier on the bread and a little less on the pudding, so I didn't use quite all of the pudding mixture. But you do want the pudding to cover most of the bread.

And finally, this pudding would be excellent with a caramel or butterscotch sauce, but I happened to use all my cream for the pudding and didn't have any left for a sauce, hence the picture shown below is quite sauceless. It was still dang good, but a bit of sauce always improves the picturesque quality of a dish. If you're making this for friends, I'd either make my own sauce or cheat and buy a jar to save myself the hassle of one more pot to wash.

A note about the picture: If you look closely (or maybe not that closely) at the photo above, you may notice that the plate looks wet. Almost as if it had been rained on...and the truth is, it had been! My new kitchen is beautiful and has loads of cupboards and counter space beyond my wildest dreams, but, sadly, has very icky lighting for a very dreadful camera like mine. So I take my pictures outside. Rain or shine. At least until I get a new camera.

Roasted Pear Bread Pudding
Recipe adapted from The All-American Dessert Book
Pictures by Kelly

5 large pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup packed brown sugar (divided)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1lb loaf day old Italian or French bread, crust removed and cut/torn into 1-inch chunks*
5 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 1/3 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons ginger root, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 tablespoon sugar + 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and spread out the pears evenly. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup brown sugar and the lemon juice, gently turning to coat. Roast the pears, gently stirring and spooning their juice over them once or twice, until tender, 8-12 minutes. Remove from oven and decrease temperature to 325 degrees F. 
  2. Add bread pieces to pears and toss to coat bread in pear juice. Set aside.
  3. While pears are roasting, beat together eggs, egg yolk, and 3/4 cup of brown sugar; add cream and stir until sugar completely dissolves. Stir in the milk, ginger root, lemon zest, vanilla, and almond extract (if using). 
  4. Pour custard mixture over bread and pears. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture. 
  5. Place 9 x 13 dish in a slightly larger roasting pan (or broiler pan). Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the pudding appears set except the center, which should still be slightly jiggly when tapped. Let cool at least 30 minutes. Serve plain or with a butterscotch or caramel sauce. 
*If you struggle with the idea of soggy bread, try lightly toasting the bread in the oven on 275 degrees F for about 15 minutes before adding them to the pears and then pudding. This will make things a little drier when it comes to eating time. 

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