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I love bread pudding. I am haunted by the smell of that cinnamon laced, raisin-laden, custardy treat and have been since my childhood, when my mother often made this warm and comforting dish. I had no idea, as a child, that mom did so because it was a super affordable dessert to make for us kids, clamoring for sweets during a Reagan-era recession.

Affordable and easy to make, all you really need for a basic bread pudding is some stale (or toasted fresh bread), a few eggs, some milk, sugar and spice and you have a delectable dessert for the whole family.

Over the years I have experimented with my bread pudding recipe and created quite a high brow repertoire using ingredients like currants instead of raisins, pannetone or croissants in place of week old white bread. I have added chunks of dagoba chocolate, flecks of lavendar and lemon rind. I have also topped it with homemade ice cream — hard, chocolate and caramel sauces and savored the tart juxtaposition of raspberry liquor poured straight atop a deep, dark chocolate bread pudding.

But for this time of year when the comfort food reigns — I remain simple in my offerings with this straight-forward pumpkin version, topped with fresh whipped cream and maple candied pecans.

Best of all, it’s delish for breakfast the next day. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding w/candied maple pecans and whipped cream

1 15 oz of mashed or canned pumpkin
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 loaf lightly toasted and torn into pieces Challah
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
¼ cup of butter
2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Tear or cube the bread of your choice into small pieces (if you would like add raisins, dried cranberries or currents to the bread, put into a buttered or greased casserole or large baking dish and set aside. Be sure that whatever dish you choose can fit easily inside a larger baking pan filled halfway with water for baking. Slightly beat eggs just until mixed not foamy and set aside. Put butter, milk and cream in a saucepan and heat until butter is melted and milk mixture is heated but not scalded- set aside. Cool to lukewarm. In a large bowl pour pumpkin, milk and butter mixture, sugars, salt, spices, vanilla and eggs- whisk together. Pour mixture into the bread taking care to fold the bread and pumpkin mixture together to coat all pieces of bread. Set the larger pan in the oven on the rack and then place the baking dish with mixture inside the larger pan. Using a tea kettle or large pour measuring cup, carefully pour hot or boiling water, into the larger pan (be sure not to get water in the bread pudding) until the larger pan is half full. Carefully slide pans back into the oven making sure not to dump the hot water into the pudding or onto your self. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Candied Maple Toasted Pecans (or walnuts)

Heat a small skillet and dry toast 1 cup roughly chopped pecans continuing to move the nuts so they do not burn (about 1 minute) add ½ teaspoon of butter let it melt as you continue to stir the nuts into the butter- take care that it does not brown, add 3 Tbsp of dark maple syrup and continue to stir mixture as syrup bubbles and carmelizes onto pecans. Once mixture has thickened and nuts are coated remove from heat and let cool on a plate.

Serve pumpkin bread pudding warm or cold with fresh whipped cream and topped with candied pecans.

Yields: 8-12 servings