In my family, we LOVE bread pudding. So much so that when I got married in September, we served bread pudding instead of cake at our wedding. When I bought 1 too many loaves of bread for a holiday get together I knew exactly what I was going to do with that leftover loaf - re-create the bread pudding we served at our wedding. You know the saying that food tastes better when it's cooked with love?! This is by far THE BEST bread pudding I've ever had or made. I'll stop talking now and let you get into it...
ingredients for the bread pudding:
4 honey crisp apples, peeled cored & diced
1 c. butter
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp salt
? c. brown sugar
1 loaf bread (brioche, challah or country white), in 1" cubes ~8 c.
1 c. whole milk
1 c. heavy cream
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c. sugar
2 c. brown sugar
4 eggs + 3 egg yolks
1 c. almond slices
caramel can be made up to a week in advance. Otherwise, make it while the bread pudding bakes!
To make the bread pudding:
Preheat oven to 350' F. Cut bread into 1" cubes and lay out on a baking sheet. Slightly toast the bread in the oven if it's not stale already. This will help it absorb the custard better. Pull out and let them cool while you do the rest.
In a medium sized skillet, cook apples, butter, vanilla bean split length wise with the seeds scraped into the pot, salt and the brown sugar. You want the sugar to dissolve and the apple juices to get nice and thick. This will take about 15 - 20 min.
While the apples cook, heat the milk & heavy cream in a medium sized sauce pan. You want to bring it to a soft boil and then shut the heat off. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, salt & extract together. Slowly ladle a small amount of the cream into the egg mixture to temper it. You want to incorporate the hot cream into the egg mixture so that the eggs thicken but don't cook. Slowly while whisking, drizzle in the remaining cream. Add in c. of the almond slicess and your slightly toasted bread cubes to the bowl. Give it a good, aggressive stir for about 2 - 3 minutes. You want all of the cubes coated in the custard mixture and you want to break up some of the cubes. I've found this is what gives you the good bread pudding texture. Let mixture sit for 30 - 60 minutes until it fully absorbs the custard into the bread.
Butter or non-stick spray a 9x9 baking dish. Dump bread pudding mixture into dish, smushing (totally an official word) the mixture into the pan so it all fits. If you don't have a 9x9, you can use a smaller pan and put the extra mixture into individual ramekins or bake it in two smaller dishes. Sprinkle the top with the remaining c. almond slices. Bake for about 45 minutes until it's slightly puffed and golden brown on top.
Serve warm with caramel sauce on top OR, chill in the refrigerator 4 hours and serve cold with caramel sauce. It's good both ways. So, so good.