Today is a banner day, my friends! Today is the day that we baked my chosen recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, the online baking group I belong to. If you’re not a member of this group, please understand that this is a Big Deal. There are approximately five bajillion members (give or take a kablillion) so most weeks, we TWD’ers end up making a recipe someone else has picked out. After a year and a half in the group, it was finally my turn, so you’d think I would be excited, right?
Well, I was excited. But I also felt pressure! And fear! And the ice-cold sweat of the guilty upon my brow! You see, everyone wants to pick a recipe the group will love. No one wants to be the one to inflict the TWD equivalent of the infamous Sandra Lee Kwanzaa cake upon their friends. Adding to this concern is my certainty that I have bad TWD karma because I complain about the recipes all the time. It’s nothing against Dorie–I truly love this book–it’s more about being an obnoxious nitpicky perfectionist who always wants to tweak things and make them just a bit better.
So although I was looking forward to choosing a recipe, I’m also sure that I’ve cosmically earned whatever apathy or negativity anyone has toward this week’s recipe. And what a struggle it was to decide! I’ve confessed before that I am a bread pudding-holic. It’s been a year since my admission, and I still haven’t hit rock bottom. So obviously I’d had my eye on her Apple-Apple Bread Pudding since day one. But I had so many doubts: bread pudding isn’t a springy dessert! And why use apples when there are so many delicious berries coming into season? And what about all the bread pudding haters? So I struggled. But in the end, I had to be true to myself, and my stomach, and say, as did the wise Kenneth from 30 Rock, “This mess is going to get raw like sushi, so haters to the left!”
This bread pudding was different from any others that I’ve made. It actually seemed almost more like stuffed French toast. Toasted brioche is slathered with apple butter, then caramelized apples are sandwiched in between the slices, and the custard is poured over the whole thing. As you can see from the picture above, the end result is just about the most delicious–and calorically deadly–sandwich you could have.
I decided I couldn’t have my bread pudding going out into the world naked, so I made cinnamon ice cream to go with it. (That linked recipe is just about my favorite ice cream recipe ever. And I swear, the “Elizabeth” who submitted it is not me. I would take full credit if it was!) I reserved some of the ice cream mixture before churning, so some of the bread pudding was served with cinnamon creme anglaise instead. Either way, you can’t go wrong!
Here’s the truth: I didn’t love this right away. Of course I’m an impatient monkey and was there with my tastin’ spoon the second I took the bread pudding out of the oven. I risked a burnt mouth to shovel it on in, and…I was disappointed. I don’t know if I overcooked it, or what, but it was eggy and not so flavorful. Believe me, I was crushed.
But, not being willing to admit defeat, I kept tasting it in 15-minute intervals. (Ah, dinner, I hardly knew ye.) As it cooled and settled, it got better and better. Turns out patience really is a virtue! By that evening, I liked it quite a bit, especially when served warm with the cinnamon ice cream melting on top.
But the truly happy ending to this story is that I loved it the next day! I don’t know what magic my refrigerator worked overnight, but when it was reheated the next day, it was amazing. Moist, flavorful, melting into the ice cream…to die for. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe again this summer with more seasonal fruits, like using fresh peaches and peach jam, maybe with ginger ice cream? Yum!
Thanks to everyone who baked along with me this week! Here are the blogs of my fellow TWD’ers who made it, and here’s the recipe:
Apple-Apple Bread Pudding
From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
For the caramelized apples: [I actually made this times 1.5]
3 medium apples, peeled and cored (Fuji or Gala recommended)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp sugar
12 oz egg bread, such as challah or brioche, sliced 1/2″ thick and stale
1 cup store-bought spiced apple butter [I used more like 2 cups]
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Confectioner’s sugar or apple jelly, for finishing
Getting Ready: Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan (like Pyrex), dust the inside with sugar and tap out the excess. Line a larger roasting pan with a double thickness of paper towels.
To Caramelize the Apples: Cut each apple into smal lchunks. Put a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter, and, when it melts, sprinkle over the sugar. Cook the butter and sugar for a minute or so–you want the sugar to caramelize but not burn, so adjust the heat accordingly. Toss in the apple slices–don’t worry if the caramel seizes and lumps, it will melt and smooth out as you work–and cook, carefully turning the apples once or twice, until they are tender but not soft, 3-5 minutes. They should be golden, and some might even be caramelized. Remove from the heat.
To Make the Bread Pudding: If your bread is not stale, spread it out on a baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 10 minutes to “stale” it.
Spread one side of each slice of bread with the apple butter, then cut each slice on the diagonal to get 4 triangles. cover the bottom of the baking pan with half of the bread, arranging the triangles, buttered side up, so that they overlap slightly (don’t worry about spaces between the slices.) Spoon over the apples and their liquid and finish “the sandwich” with the rest of the bread.
Bring the milk and cream just to a boil.
Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, and the 3/4 cup sugar. Still whisking, slowly drizzle in about one quarter of the hot milk mixture–this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining milk. Add the vanilla and whisk to blend. Rap the bowl against the counter to pop any bubbles that might have formed, then spoon off any foam that has risen to the top. Pour the custard over the bread and press the bread gently with the back of a spoon to help it absorb the liquid. Leave the pan on the counter, giving the bread the back-of-the-spoon treatment now and then, for about 30 minutes.
Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Put the baking pan in the roasting pan, slide the setup into the oven and very carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the pudding pan. Bake the pudding for about 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Transfer the baking pan to a rack and cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.
The pudding can be served as is or dusted with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Or, if you want to give the pudding a little gloss, put about 1/2 cup apple jelly in a small pot with a splash of water. Heat until the jelly liquefiees, then brush a thin layer over the top of the pudding. Or…my personal recommendation…serve with lots of ice cream!