Monday, July 29, 2013

Banana Pecan-Coconut Bread Pudding

Banana Pecan-Coconut Bread Pudding - made July 20, 2013, recipe adapted from All-American Dessert Book by Nancy Baggett
My niece and her boyfriend were visiting me one weekend and, as always, I asked them "what do you want me to make for dessert?"  She chose her favorite Red Velvet Cookies and he chose the Banana Caramel Bread Pudding I'd blogged about earlier.  But, being me, I couldn't resist trying a similar but different recipe for bread pudding and adding my own modifications to it.  I kept the key elements such as bread pudding and caramelized bananas.  But I also kept to the coconut and pecans in the original recipe.
However, I didn't toast the coconut and I didn't chop the nuts or include them in the custard or mix them in with the bread like the original recipe called for.  Instead I just layered them on top so they would get crisp during baking.  Nuts get soggy when you mix them into wet doughs or batters and stay soggy even after baking.  I don't like that texture so I kept them on top to toast.
This plan turned out to be only marginally successful.  I didn't toast the nuts before I layered them on top, figuring they would toast during the baking of the bread pudding.  And they did but they didn't seem like they quite toasted enough.  Next time, I would probably lightly toast them first before putting them on top.  If they get too brown, just loosely cover with foil to prevent over-browning before the bread pudding is done.
I also started off baking this in a water bath as directed but after 25 minutes, it didn't look anywhere near done while the top was almost perfectly browned already so I removed it from the water bath, wiped the bottom and sides of the dish and baked it directly on the oven rack.  It puffed up obligingly after that and 20 minutes later, was done without being over done.  I added the warm caramelized bananas on top before serving (simply melt butter and add brown sugar, whisk to combine then add sliced bananas until soft and caramelized).  I liked this as much as the earlier recipe and very much enjoyed the addition of the coconut.  Next time though, I would leave off the pecans entirely.  I'm just not a fan of nuts in desserts like bread pudding.  Or else I would caramelize the pecans separately and add it to the caramelized bananas right before serving.  This is best eaten when the bread pudding is lukewarm and the caramelized bananas are freshly made and still hot to warm.

4 cups cubed (1/3 inch) crusty French or Italian bread, including crust (I used 16 ounces of challah)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, lightly toasted
2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
4 large eggs
Scant 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 ¼ cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed banana
½ cup semisweet chocolate morsels or mini morsels, optional (I left them out)
  1. Lightly grease a 7 x 11-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Spread the bread cubes in the dish.  Toast in the oven, stirring once or twice, until lightly crisp, 11 to 15 minutes; set aside. 
  2. In a medium bowl, using a fork, beat the eggs until frothy and smooth.  Add the brown sugar, stirring until it dissolves.  Stir in the milk, cream, vanilla and mashed banana until well blended.  Stir in half the coconut and all of the chocolate morsels, if using.  Pour the egg mixture over the bread.  Press down lightly until all of the bread is submerged.  Cover with plastic wrap and let bread soak in the mixture overnight or for several hours.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325°F.  Sprinkle remaining coconut and the toasted pecans over the surface.
  4. Set the dish in a slightly larger roasting pan or broiler pan.  Place on the oven rack.  Add ¾ inch hot water to the pan.  Bake just until the pudding feels in the center when lightly tapped and is nicely browned on top, 35 to 45 minutes.  If bread pudding does not seem to be baking but the top is getting brown, remove from water bath and bake directly on oven rack.  Cover top loosely with foil to prevent it from becoming too brown.  When puffed and brown, transfer to a wire rack.  Let cool for at least 15 minutes.  Serve warm with ice cream or caramelized bananas.

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