It doesn’t take much to start me thinking about bread pudding – it is one of my favorite restaurant desserts. My very favorite bread pudding at served at an Irish restaurant in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. One ice cream topped, caramel drizzled, portion is easily enough for four. I am not very good at sharing this one, last time I should have shared a little more because I woke up the next day with a sugar hangover – not pretty, but kinda-sorta worth it.
The brown bread I made a couple of weeks ago got me thinking about brown bread pudding. It doesn’t take much.
In my mind, a great brown bread pudding is creamy on the bottom with a little bit of a crust on top and there should be some sweet sauce and perhaps a little cream served on top. I assumed all of these components were much more complicated than my limited skills could achieve. I was also skeptical I could make a healthier version taste as decedent as a traditional recipe. But, the bread was just sitting there and eventually my curiosity won out. I screwed up my courage and started to research.
I compared at least a half-dozen recipes before starting and a few more in between batches. I experimented with several baking dishes and an array of milk products. After several attempts, the final brown bread pudding came out moist with a slight crust, and richly with the aromatic flavors of whiskey, cardamom, and orange zest. It is just sweet enough to be a substantial dessert but not so sweet that it couldn’t be a meal unto itself; I know – I ate it for lunch yesterday.
Warm and comforting straight out of the oven and even more flavorful if made a day ahead. The best simple cream sauce was about 2 tablespoons vanilla ice cream melted over the top of a warm slice of pudding. I love serving brown bread pudding with fresh pears sautéed with cinnamon and a splash of whiskey.
It takes a small amount of planning ahead to make a brown bread pudding, but each step is incredibly simple to execute. Now, that I can make a light version at home, our family will be enjoying this nostalgic treat more often.
- 3 cups of torn Brown Bread left out to dry overnight
- 1 oz whiskey
- 2 TB raisins
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 - 1¼ cups low fat buttermilk
- ¼ - ½ cups fat free milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp cardamom
- a pinch of salt
- ½ tsp orange zest
- 1 TB dark brown sugar
- 1 TB Smart Balance 67%
- Soak raisins in whiskey for an hour or more to re-hydrate.
- Lightly grease a 3 quart round baking dish. Arrange the bread pieces evenly in the dish and spoon soaked raisins and remaining whiskey over the bread then sprinkle over the orange zest.
- In a medium bowl lightly beat the egg then whisk in milks, vanilla, and spices.
- Pour buttermilk mixture over the bread pieces. The liquid should be level with or above the bread.
- Allow the bread to soak for 30 minutes. If possible, push the bread down into the liquid a few times while it soaks. If the liquid level drops below the top add a few tablespoons of milk to raise it back up.
- While the bread soaks, cream together Smart Balance and sugar. Crumble sugar mixture over the pudding and place in the heated oven.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Pudding is done when it has a toasty crust and slightly spongy texture when lightly pressed. There should be no visible liquid.
Sautéed Pears are a naturally sweet and lightly syrupy way to dress up Whiskied Brown Bread Pudding. They can also be the star of their own show when served over yogurt or low fat ice cream. This method should make as many servings as needed. I typically make two at a time. For more servings increase the spices by 1/4 tsp and add more to taste.
- 1/2 pear per serving
For two servings:
- Pick a pear that is firm but just beginning to soften. The firmer the pear the better it holds up to cooking but the softer it is the sweeter it will be when the sugars start to caramelize.
- Remove the seeds and fibrous stem then slice the long way into about 1/8 of an inch segments. Cut the segments in half or thirds to make thin chunks.
- Heat a good non-stick skillet to medium high heat and add the pear slices.
- Gently stir them as they begin to brown. Add about 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg. Continue to stir.
- When the slices are getting a nice golden color add 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup of water and 1 TB of whiskey*. Continue to stir and let the liquid reduce by 1/2 or more depending on how syrupy you like your sauce.
- Serve warm.
*For an extra layer of boozy decadence – soak 1/2 a bourbon vanilla bean (like the ones pictured from the fine folks at Marx Foods) in the whiskey for the pears. Leave it for 15 – 30 minutes and then add the bean with the whiskey. Remove the pod before serving.