Bread pudding is a brilliant use of stale bread and when you add caramelized apples and a rum caramel sauce, it soars right by ordinary brilliant and heads straight into quantum brilliance. We're not a dessert family (could have something to do with the fact we rarely finish dinner before nine) but the stars aligned— we ate dinner at 7, two stale baguettes were on top of the fridge and I had just picked up some apples from Blue Vista Farm. It was a huge hit and definitely worth eating an early dinner so we could have dessert.
Caramelizing the apples until they are a deep golden color really makes a difference, don't skip this step. It concentrates the apple flavors and helps them hold their own against the custard soaked bread cubes.
I've made this bread pudding about 10 times since the beginning of October (the kids really, really like it) and I've discovered a 50/50 mixture of artisan type bread and conventional white bread makes the best bread pudding. The artisan bread adds structure while the conventional bread holds it all together— kind of like coming up with the perfect blend of Syrah and Grenache. Too bad, blending stale bread cubes in Bayfield doesn't have the same cache as blending grapes in Provence!
Caramelized Apple Bread Pudding with a Rum Caramel Sauce
5 large tart apples (such as Jonagold or Honeycrisp)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 cups half and half
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon 8 cups stale bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (1 cup reserved for the topping)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 x 13 pan. Peel the apples and cut into 1 inch chunks. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add the sugar and stir until the mixture bubbles, then toss in the apples to coat them. Let the apples sit, in a single layer if your pan is large enough, undisturbed for about a few minutes to sear the exterior and then flip them over and let them sit another minute. Repeat this process until the apples are caramelized and tender (about 10 minutes). Remove the apples and juices from the pan and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg to combine. Add the half and half, milk and vanilla and combine thoroughly.
In a small bowl, combine the tablespoon of sugar with the 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.
Place 7 cups of the bread cubes in the large mixing bowl and toss to coat with the liquid. Let sit for about 45 minutes (tossing another couple of times) and then place the bread cubes in the buttered baking dish. Place the caramelized apples, their juices and chopped pecans over the bread. Scatter the remaining cup of bread cubes over the apples and press them to partially submerge in the custard. Brush the exposed bread cubes with the rest of the melted butter, and sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until the bread pudding is golden and a knife inserted into the middle of the bread pudding comes out clean. Remove the pudding from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve warm with caramel sauce (recipe follows) or vanilla ice cream.
Rum Caramel Sauce
6 tbsp butter
1/2 cup cream
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tbsp spiced rum
Place the butter, cream, rum and brown sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil and then simmer for 2 – 3 minutes until slightly thickened. Pour over bread pudding and serve.