My quest for awesome things to do with pumpkin puree continues!

Most of my life, I thought I didn’t like bread pudding.  I think it’s because any time I came across it, it always involved raisins (yuck!) and some sort of liqueur.  Plus, as a kid, if a dessert didn’t have chocolate, I wasn’t really interested.  Bread pudding just seemed weird and unpalatable and was moved to the recesses of the dessert-possibilities area of my brain.

A couple of years ago, I was at a dinner where one of the proffered desserts was a black and white bread pudding.  They were little ramekins with a fluffy, creamy yellow cake and inside, molten dark and white chocolate sauces.  *This* was bread pudding?  This was… amazing!  The texture was lovely, the flavors rich and intense.  It was something I would actually choose if I had other options.  Sold!

Making this dessert at home, though, never happened until recently.  I never had a whole loaf of day-old bread hanging around, or the necessary staple ingredients, or a good recipe, etc. etc.  Completely randomly, I came across some recipes for Pumpkin Bread Pudding.  Would it be texturally palatable?  Would it be the right sort of flavor?  Given that the other new things I’ve tried with pumpkin have been a success, signs pointed to “yes.”  I chose a basic recipe, from The Joy of Baking, then bought a loaf of Italian bread to keep on the counter for a day or two.

Oh. My. WOW.  This was so good!  Not too sweet, so it’s not overwhelming when combined with the super-sugary toffee sauce.  I’d never had or made toffee sauce before, and it was easy.  The whole thing was really easy.  The most labor- and mess-intensive part was preparing the bread.  I removed the crusts, because I like a creamy pudding;  leaving the crusts on will make the pudding more chewy.  You can do whichever suits you.  I also used Egg Beaters, about 2/3-C, in place of the 2 eggs+1 yolk, and added a good pinch of nutmeg to the spices.

Get an 8×8 brownie pan and let’s get going!

Ingredients:

  • 5 C day-old bread, crusts removed or left on, cubed
  • 2 large eggs + 1 yolk
  • 3/4 C pumpkin puree
  • 1-1/2 C half-and-half
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 C light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the toffee sauce:

  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C heavy cream
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350; place rack in center.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, half & half, butter, sugar, vanilla, spices, and salt.
  • Add the bread cubes, and toss to coat well.  Make sure that all of the pieces get nice and soaked.
  • Place the bread in an ungreased 8×8 pan, and bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
  • An option is to put the plain bread in the pan, pour over the custard mixture, toss really well, and bake the whole thing for 35 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Silky custard FTW!

To make the toffee sauce:

  • In a saucepan, bring the butter, sugar, and cream to a boil, and boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Watch the heat and make sure it doesn’t burn!  Remove from heat, and add the vanilla.  This can be made ahead of time and re-warmed.

Enjoy!

Recently, Top Chef featured a Quickfire challenge with a tie-in to the website Cookstr.com,  a new-ish recipe site with an interface like Chow‘s that lets you easily bookmark your favorite recipes.  I’ve been browsing my way through the plethora of cooking sites out there, eagerly noting the small number of recipes on each that 1) are vegetarian but don’t involve mushrooms or tofu, and 2) contain things I can realistically make.  Since I’m constantly seeking new blogs and sites to read, I added it to my bookmarks.

One recipe I was happy to find there was chef Pichet Ong’s recipe for Mango Pudding.  It’s a Hong Kong-style dessert that uses sauteed fresh mangoes; I’d just bought mangoes and needed a recipe.  Not just any recipe, but one that doesn’t require a puree.  You see, I don’ t currently have a food processor or a blender or even a hand-mixer.  If I did, I’d have made a bunch of mango lassis.  This preparation reduces the mango pulp down to a jam-like syrupy consistency.  I recommend Alton Brown’s method of cutting mangoes.

This recipe makes quite a bit – it says 8, but it ended up being 10 with the size of the ramekins that we have. (Currently, our “ramekins” are teacups.)  I’ve also posted a variation on the Milk Chantilly recipe, adding Indian flavors to tie it in with a curry dinner I’d made.  Some spices would probably go very nicely in the pudding itself, too.

Mango Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 6 mangoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (tip: How to Choose Mangoes at the Store)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 C plus 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2-1/2 tsp (1 packet) powdered gelatin
  • 3 Tbsp cold water
  • 4 C whipping cream

Instructions:

  • Put mangoes, lemon juice, and salt in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.
  • Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mangoes are very soft.
  • Add sugar and continue to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring and scraping pan, until mixture becomes thick and syrupy, with a few chunks of mango remaining.  Do not let the sugar caramelize and get brown.
  • Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm temperature.
  • Dissolve the gelatin in 3 Tbsp cold water.  Mix it into the lukewarm mango mixture until it dissolves into the mixture.
  • Stir in the cream until well-incorporated.
  • Divide into ramekins.  Chill 3 hours.

Serve with Milk Chantilly:

Ingredients:

  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Instructions:

  • Whisk cream until soft peaks form
  • Fold in sweetened condensed milk and salt, and whisk again until medium-soft peaks form

Makes 2 Cups.

Here’s my improvised Cardamom Chantilly:   After adding the sweetened condensed milk and salt, add about 1/2 tsp cardamom powder, and a pinch of cinnamon if desired.  Continue whipping as instructed above.