Sunday, June 30, 2013

Banana Caramel Bread Pudding

Banana Caramel Bread Pudding - made June 22, 2013, recipe modified from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman
I originally started off with the vanilla bread pudding recipe from A Passion for Baking but I made enough changes to the original recipe that I'm calling this one my own invention.  The real inspiration for this was from a Bananas Foster Bread Pudding I tried when my niece and I had lunch at Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen in Berkeley last month.  I was already predisposed to like it because ever since I went to New Orleans, I've developed a fondness for Bananas Foster.  And I've had a love affair with bread pudding for some time so the two married together in the same dessert?  You know it had to be good.  And it was.  I haven't yet tried to recreate an actual Bananas Foster bread pudding but I thought I'd play with Marcy Goldman's recipe and see what I could come up with.
All modesty aside, what I came up with was serious goodness.  I added mashed banana and caramel to the custard that soaked the bread to ensure the flavor would come out as well as substituted brown sugar for some of the granulated sugar in the original recipe, again to promote that caramel flavor.  Be sure to bake the bread pudding long enough for it to get golden brown and puffy on top so the custard will set when cooled.  What really puts this over the top is, well, the topping.  I caramelized bananas in butter and brown sugar and served it warm over lukewarm bread pudding.  Eeek.  So good. When you're serving this, I recommend you only make enough topping for the amount of bread pudding you plan to serve as that's when the caramelized bananas look their best. Later on, they will look more grey and unappetizing (although they'll still taste good).
This is the kind of dessert that sends me running to the treadmill just so I can have another piece later.  And I eat a smaller dinner so I can have it for dessert.  And when those things still aren't enough, I put on my oldest, most well-broken-in pair of jeans (read: loose waist band), tell myself this is why I can't seem to lose the last 10 pounds then admit I don't really care as long as I can have another piece.  My sweet tooth wins again.
10 cups challah, brioche or egg bread, cut into chunks (I recommend at least 20 ounces of challah)
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup caramel
1 large overripe banana, mashed
  1. Line a 9 x 13" baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, place bread chunks.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs and add sugars to form a paste.  Whisk in melted butter, vanilla, cinnamon, baking powder, flour and salt.  Gradually add milk and heavy cream, whisking to maintain a smooth mixture.
  3. Stir in 1/3 cup caramel and mashed banana.  Whisk, or with an electric mixer, beat mixture until smooth. It's okay for the banana to be a little chunky in the custard. Pour over bread and let stand 10 minutes or so to absorb. Spoon into prepared pan. 
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Bake until firm to touch, about 45-50 minutes, and golden brown on top.
Caramelized Banana Topping
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
 2 large bananas, firm and yellow with brown spots on the skin (you don't want it too overripe), sliced in 1/4" - 1/3" slices
  1. Melt butter and brown sugar in a shallow saucepan. 
  2. Add banana slices and saute over low heat until bananas have softened and caramelized but aren't overly mushy.  
  3. Spoon on top of squares of bread pudding and serve immediately.

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