When the challah french toast v. bread pudding decision was put up to a vote on Twitter, french toast won with 100% of the vote. So I made bread pudding, because I like to be contrary and alienate my readers. Plus – and I’m only telling you this because I trust you not to spread it around and ruin my reputation – I like to have a dessert made on the Saturday nights when my Dungeons and Dragons group gets together. Yes, I put that in white to make it harder to read; if you want my embarrassing secrets, you have to work for them. I’m still coming to terms with it myself.
Brian asked for savory bread pudding but I nixed that too, because my contrary nature knows no bounds. Today is our 7th legal wedding anniversary* but yesterday was not, so I was under no legal obligation to agree. My contrary nature went from threat level yellow to threat level orange after one of the dogs managed to get to my set-out-to-dry challah cubes despite their being on a high counter several feet back from the edge. Next time around I’m getting a wiener dog and I’m going to leave all kinds of food out on the counter JUST BECAUSE I CAN. Raw meat, stinky cheese, whatever; I’m just leaving it right out there. ALL BETS ARE OFF.
I didn’t want a completely plain sweet pudding (although I would never kick one out of bed); nor did I want something super-rich, chocolate-laden or with a heavy bourbon sauce. I know this all sounds very unlike me. I do occasionally take the season into account and yesterday, while not scorching hot, was warm and muggy, calling for something less dense.**
*We eschew the legal marriage and celebrate this day instead.
**I know this should argue against making bread pudding at all, but (1) this was a fricking HUGE loaf of bread and it had to go somewhere and (2) we have air conditioning.
Instead, I decided to go with fruit. After several hours of internal dithering, I decided on peach melba: bread pudding with sauteed peaches folded in, fresh raspberry sauce and good vanilla ice cream. (Next time I’ll go hardcore all the way and make the ice cream myself; this time I called in a favor from my good friends at Haagen Dasz.*) In the end it was really no lighter than any other kind of bread pudding, but the presence of fruit, especially the bracing raspberries, gave it the pretense of something more fresh.
While the peaches (confession: frozen, it’s still too early here for good Jersey peaches) sauteed in a little butter and sugar to thaw and drive out some of the liquid so they wouldn’t soggy up the pudding, I mixed up a quick custard of milk, cream, whole eggs and yolks and a little sugar.
Intellectually I know that the 2 cups of cream negate any attempt at lightness, but I have an exceptional ability to overlook inconvenient facts. It’s like a sixth non-sense. It’s the same gift that allows me to believe that my apartment has not lost one-fifth of its value, or that watching Deadliest Catch is a productive and efficient use of my limited free time.
*Okay, they are not actually my friends. But if they wanted to be, I would plug them here ALL THE TIME, because I am shameless and their ice cream is expensive.
I let the peaches cool not quite enough and tossed them with those remaining shell-shocked challah cubes that had not been mauled by a sheepdog.
(Yes, Felix, I know it was you: The vomit, it betrays you.)
I tossed the fruit and bread mixture with the custard, made sure to mush everything around good and let the mixture sit while I made the raspberry sauce. The sitting is important, up to two hours in the refrigerator. It makes sure that the custard soaks the bread through and through, so you don’t end up with any dry pockets in your finished pudding.
You know what’s funny? That I give you tips. Let’s face it, 97% of you don’t come here because I actually teach you how to cook or am amazingly inventive; you go to No Recipes or cook eat FRET or Gild the Voodoolily for that (Or if you don’t go to those places, you should. Especially that last one, she’s preggers right now and even crazier than normal.) But I persist in trying to instruct you anyway, to keep up the pretense that this is a food blog.
This picture kinda looks like offal. A collection of teeny-tiny offal in a blender. But it’s not! Fooled you.
It’s raspberries (confession: also frozen; the produce section of the local Pathmark is uninspiring at best and a breeding ground for untold bacteria and mold at worse, but I didn’t have time to venture further afield because of all the time I’d spend dithering earlier) went into the blender with a shot of lime juice and some simple syrup. I defrosted them using the “put them right into the blender and whiz the shit out of them until they’re basically thawed” method, thus killing two birds with one stone.
I ran the puree through a strainer to get out the seeds until I had a smooth, vibrant sauce. I enjoy making quick fruit sauces like this because people think it takes actual work. I feel like that woman in the old Rice Krispies commercial who would dust her face with flour because flouncing out of the kitchen with a tray of Rice Krispie treats, basking in the adulation of a family who never took the time to read the side of the box and learn how easy they are to make. I hope I do a better job of fooling people than that woman. (It definitely works better on the friends for whom “cooking” means “mix some frozen peas into the Kraft mac and cheese.”)
The pudding went into the oven, the sauce went into the fridge and I went onto the couch, because I always need to fortify myself with a nap before a high energy evening of Dungeons and Dragons. The faux-maurauding is exhausting.
I should have just heaped everything into a bowl rather than trying to do some kind of cutsey plating thing, because bread pudding is cuddly and comforting and does not deserve to be fancified, resulting in photos that do not fully showcase its warm, fruity goodness. Maybe I’ll do that tonight, because there are definitely re-heated leftovers in my future.
One of my Saturday evening companions declared that I have a +5 baking skill; I would hope for something more like a +9, but I will take it as the compliment it was meant to be and assume that this went over well. The fruit-lightening actually kinda worked; there was a pretty high peach-to-pudding ratio, which equated to lots of sweet fruit in every bowlful. The raspberry sauce was tart, tempered a little by the simple syrup but brightened by the lime. It perfectly tamed the sweetness of the vanilla ice cream that started instantly melting into all the nooks and crannies of the pudding. (After I took this picture, I did just heap everything into a bowl, which was totally the right decision.)
I’ve never had actual peach melba, but knowing what goes into it I can imagine what it would taste like. I think this was a pretty good approximation. Plus, it definitely gave us a much needed energy boost to defeat the iron cobra so we could swipe the magic gems for Marcus the smithy.
Yes, I just said that.
PS: Vote (Most Provocative)
Peach Melba Bread Pudding
1 loaf challah or brioche
2 10 oz. bags frozen peaches (or equivalent amount of fresh peaches peeled and sliced)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 + 2/3 c. sugar
2 c. heavy cream
2.5 c. whole milk
4 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1 10 oz. bag frozen raspberries (or equivalent fresh)
1-2 tbsp. lime juice, to taste
1/4 c. simple syrup (equal parts sugar + water, simmered until sugar is dissolved and syrup is clear)
vanilla ice cream
The morning or night before you plan on making this, cube the bread and let it sit out to dry out.
Heat the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the peaches, sprinkle 1/3 a cup of sugar over them, and toss to coat. Cook until the peaches are softened, glossy from the sugar-butter mixture and any liquid that comes out of the fruit has cooked off. Set aside.
While the fruit cools, whisk the eggs, yolks and the other 2/3 of a cup for sugar until combined, 15-30 seconds. Whisk in the cream, milk and vanilla.
In a large bowl, toss the bread and peaches together. Pour the milk and cream mixture over, toss to combine well, cover and let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Pre-heat the oven to 325. Pour the bread pudding mixture into a large baking dish. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until the top is golden and the pudding is set. Let the finished pudding sit for 10 minutes so the steam doesn’t get you when you try to scoop out a serving.
While the pudding is baking, put the raspberries, lime juice and simple syrup in a blender; blend until completely smooth. Press through a fine mesh strainer to get all the seeds out. Set aside. Take the ice cream out of the freezer to soften enough to scoop.
Spoon a generous heaping of bread pudding into a bowl. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle raspberry sauce on top.