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Bread pudding is the ideal top-off for a special dinner

Sometimes there is a recipe that is so delicious, easy to make and appealing that it must be shared.

Recently I made a rich, warm bread pudding as the grand finale for a cooking class, and the students all gave it rave reviews. Since Valentine’s Day is approaching, it might just be the perfect ending for your special dinner.

I baked this white chocolate bread pudding with whiskey sauce in jumbo square muffin pans, which made lovely individual servings. Each piece had a tender crust encasing the tender, luscious interior. It could also be baked in a 9-inch casserole dish but the baking time will be longer as noted in the recipe.

White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

8 oz. French bread, preferably day old, torn into 2-inch chunks

¼ cup dried cranberries

3 cups whole milk

1/3 cup cream

4 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped

4 eggs

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

¾ cup sugar

3 tablespoons butter

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

Whiskey sauce:

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup sugar

Pinch cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon whiskey

Whipped cream, to garnish

Place French bread pieces in a medium-sized bowl. Add dried cranberries and milk; soak for 1 hour or until all the chunks are completely saturated. If necessary add a little more milk. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat cream in a small saucepan (or in a glass measure in the microwave) to a simmer; remove from heat. Stir in white chocolate. Let set for a minute or two for chocolate to melt, and then whisk to combine chocolate and cream.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs, vanilla, sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt. Lightly beat everything together. Stir in cream-white chocolate mixture.

Pour egg mixture over the soaked bread chunks. Toss gently to mix. Spray a jumbo square cupcake pan with baking spray. Distribute mixture evenly into the jumbo cupcake pan. (Or spray a 9-inch baking dish and pour mixture into the baking dish.)

Bake individual square bread puddings for 50 minutes or until golden and puffy. (If using baking dish, bake 1¼ to 1½ hours or until it is puffy and golden.)

Allow pudding to set for 15 minutes to firm up before serving.

Make whiskey sauce: Dissolve cornstarch in 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl. Set aside. Combine cream, sugar, cinnamon and butter in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat; stir and cook until sugar is dissolved. Stir in cornstarch and cook until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the bourbon.

Spoon pudding onto dessert plates; generously spoon on warm whiskey sauce. Top with whipped cream and serve. Makes 8 servings.

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