I have made a decision. If I’m ever forced to Sophie’s Choice my desserts, this bread pudding will come out on top.
I know. I KNOW. It’s a big statement, and I don’t say it lightly. But this is literally, truly, my favorite thing I have made all year…and maybe ever. It’s that good.
I make a lot of desserts every week, and people inevitably ask me what my favorite thing is to make or eat. I never have a good answer. I usually laugh weakly and change the subject, or say something inane (I mean, chocolate mousse? When’s the last time I made that?) and then kick myself for choosing so poorly. No longer.
Now that I’ve made this bread pudding, I’m just going to order an embossed plaque with “Cinnamon Bun Bread Pudding” printed on it, and as soon as someone starts to ask that familiar question, I’ll whip out my plaque and chant, “Cinn-a-mon-Bun! Bread-Pud-ding! Huah! Huah! Huah!” I might even end with the splits.
Obviously I’m a bit biased, since I’m a self-confessed bread pudding fiend. But you don’t have to be obsessed like I am to fall for this dessert. Why will you love it? Let me count the ways.
It starts with chunks of sweet challah bread, soaked in a cinnamon-scented custard. When it’s assembled, thick ribbons of cinnamon filling wind around the bread, creating pockets of sweet, gooey cinnamon love once it’s baked.
And then, because no cinnamon bun-inspired dessert would be complete without a littlea lot of frosting, it’s finished with a generous topping of tangy cream cheese frosting.
Is awesome. It’s got a crunchy top crust, but the interior is melting puddles of custardy bread and syrupy cinnamon filling. If you like the gooey center of cinnamon rolls, without all the dry yeastiness of outer layers, this is the dish for you.
Is minimal. There is some assembly required, and an extended soaking time for the bread, but there’s none of that yeast-wrangling/kneading/rolling/cutting/whathaveyou that real cinnamon rolls require.
A dish that’s warm and comforting enough to be served at brunch, but indulgent and fancy enough to be the dessert at a nice dinner party.
And did I mention they can be made individually? Oh yes ma’am! I think I actually prefer individual portions, because the deeper dishes mean that the interior is even more moist and gooey. Of course, there’s also the whole portion control aspect, which can either be good or bad depending on your perspective.
And an interior shot, just in case you were worried that “moist and gooey” was a bad thing:
You may be wondering, why didn’t I just use cinnamon buns in this recipe for Cinnamon Bun Bread Pudding? Fair point. I actually think they would work quite well! But I figured cinnamon buns are not as readily available as a loaf of bread, and are probably more expensive, and I wanted to make the glorious gospel of this bread pudding accessible to as many people as possible.
Even if you do substitute cinnamon buns for the challah in the recipe, please do still include the cinnamon swirl filling! That is what makes this dessert. The puny stripes of cinnamon in typical cinnamon buns will not suffice. It needs to have a fragrant, smell-it-from-the-other-room, melt-into-the-other-layers, kiss-you-in-the-mouth cinnamon swirl.
Now, I guess there’s only one thing left to say.
“Cinn-a-mon-Bun! Bread-Pud-ding! Huah! Huah! Huah!”
P.S. Want to have a Cinnamon Bun-themed party? (Of course you do!) Make this recipe for Cinnamon Bun White Hot Chocolate to go along with your bread pudding, and bask in all the cinnamonny glory.
Cinnamon Bun Bread Pudding
For the bread pudding:
- 1 1/2 lbs challah cut into small cubes
- 9 whole eggs
- 2 1/4 cup milk I used 1%, whole is probably even tastier
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
For the cinnamon filling:
- 1/2 cup butterscotch chips can substitute white chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 1/2 ounces butter (3 tbsp)
- 2 tbsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp honey
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 ounces butter at room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
To Make the bread pudding:
- Place the cubed bread on a baking sheet. Toast it in a 350 F oven for about 10-12 minutes, stirring every 3 or 4 minutes so that it doesn’t burn. The bread should start to take on a golden color, but shouldn’t be dark and hard—you don’t want to make croutons! Let the bread cool completely.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together, then add the milk, cream, brown sugar, both extracts, and the cinnamon. Add the toasted bread cubes to the bowl and toss them to coat them with the wet ingredients. Let the bread sit out on the counter for about 20 minutes, and periodically toss the cubes with your hands to make sure they get moistened equally.
- After 20 minutes, cover the bowl and refrigerate the bread to let it continue to soak up the wet mixture. I usually make mine in the evening and refrigerate it overnight, but a 2 hour soaking should be plenty if you want to make it same-day. Just make sure that your bread has absorbed most of the liquid and the pieces are very soft, but still holding their shape.
To Make the cinnamon filling & bake the pudding:
- Place the butterscotch chips in the bowl of a food processor, and process them until they are in tiny flakes. (A high-speed blender might also work.) Add the remaining ingredients and process until the filling comes together in a moist paste. Transfer it to a large plastic zip-top bag, then cut a 1/2-inch hole in the corner to make a makeshift piping bag.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the bread cubes in the bowl, and scoop up about half the bread and put it in a thin layer on the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Squirt some of the cinnamon filling out of the piping bag on top of the bread, zig-zagging across the pan to make random pockets of filling, trying to distribute it equally. Cover the cinnamon with the rest of the bread in an even layer, and if you have cinnamon remaining, squirt some into the nooks and crannies between bread cubes. The filling gets harder and chewier if it’s baked directly on the pan, so try to always have it touching the bread instead. If there is excess liquid in the bowl, pour it over the bread pudding in the pan.
- [If you want to make individual servings, use ramekins instead. The number you get depends on the size of the ramekins. Put alternating layers of bread and cinnamon mixture in each ramekin. Be generous with your servings, and pile the bread on but be aware that it puffs up when baking, so don’t got more than an inch or two above the top of the dish, otherwise your bread might make a run for it when baking.]
- Bake the bread pudding at 350 F for about 40 minutes. [25-30 minutes for smaller ramekins.] The top of the pudding should be golden brown and crunchy, and the filling should be bubbling on the sides of the pan. The genius of this dish is that the interior is soft and moist, so stop baking when the middle looks dry but still feels quite soft. Let cool until barely warm.
To Make the frosting:
- In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter. Add the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. Beat on low speed, then once the powdered sugar is mixed in, gradually raise the speed to medium-high until it well-mixed. You can adjust the consistency by adding more sugar or milk, to taste. Drizzle the frosting on the bread pudding in a random pattern. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Leftover bread pudding can be kept, well-wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to a week. If it lasts that long at your house, call me and I’ll come help with cleanup.