A Perfect Fall Bread Pudding
This bread pudding is a great fall dish, taking advantage of when pears are at their prime. The fruit should be ripe but firm. The suggestion of sourdough bread lends depth and interest to the pudding and we highly recommend the inclusion of the vanilla bean. This recipe is from Fresh Cooking by Shelley Boris. Check out her Hazelnut Keeping Cake, too.
Excerpted from Fresh Cooking: A Year of Recipes from the Garrison Institute Kitchen© by Shelley Boris. Published by Monkfish Book Publishing Company, 2014. Images by Caroline Kasterine © 2014.
This recipe is a great way to use up stale bread. In this version I add caramelized pears. You can try fresh cranberries, apples, peaches, or cherries. You can even omit the sugar and make a savory version with cheese and vegetables.
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus more for greasing the baking dish
- 3 large Bartlett pears (substitute any variety of pear)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 large eggs
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 cup raw sugar, or your sweetener of choice, divided
- 2½ cups whole milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
- 8 slices sourdough bread (any bread will do, but I like a dense, crusty loaf)
- 1 vanilla bean, split (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a 1½-quart soufflé dish; any ovenproof dish will do. Peel, halve, core, and slice the pears into ½-in. pieces (crosswise or lengthwise) and toss with lemon juice to keep from browning. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and half the sugar. In a small saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat until steaming. Gradually whisk the warm milk into the egg mixture. If the milk is too hot the egg will curdle, but if it is warm it will help the custard form. Add the vanilla extract if you didn’t use a vanilla bean and cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the bread and let it soak for up to 1 hour if you have time so that the bread is completely saturated with custard.
- Scatter the butter in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle in remaining sugar. Add the vanilla bean (if using) and distribute the sliced pears evenly in the pan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is bubbling and brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Watch the sugar carefully, taking care not to burn it. Swirl the pan around, but don’t stir the pears or they will fall apart. Place the pears in the bottom of the soufflé dish. You can arrange them in a pattern or just cover the bottom. Scrape the caramel into the dish over the pears. Scrape the inside of the vanilla bean (if using) and discard the pod.
- Cover the pears with soaked bread, and pour the remaining custard on top.
- Set the soufflé dish in a larger baking pan and create a water bath, which allows the custard to bake evenly and protect it from breaking. Add enough boiling water to reach halfway up the side of the soufflé dish. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove the bread pudding and let stand, if possible, for up toe 20 minutes to cool and set.
- While you can just serve this pudding right from the baking dish, if you turn it out of the pan, the pears and caramel will be very pretty on top. To release it, run a knife around the sides and invert onto a plate.