Forget the pie, try pumpkin bread pudding

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 17, 2012

When thinking of Thanksgiving desserts, one does think of pumpkin, pecan or sweet potato pie. Being not so fond of either, I thought it was time to find me another Thanksgiving dessert. I have done pumpkin cheese cake in the past as opposed to the usual pumpkin pie.

Bread pudding came to my mind as an easy and delicious dessert for Thanksgiving. Bread pudding is a dish with very old roots. It has evolved as most of us know as a use for stale bread. Cooks from many countries did not want to waste bread and used it in both savory and sweet dishes. Bread pudding today tends to be far more luxurious than its humble origins. Modern bread puddings often utilize fresh, gourmet breads, such as brioche, and include expensive ingredients such as vanilla beans, bourbon, gruyere cheese or pecans. Sweet bread puddings may also be served with a variety of sauces.

In addition to bread pudding, cooks also used stale bread to make stuffing, thickeners and edible serving containers. Although the Romans did use eggs as binding agents in various recipes, custard was not invented until the Middle Ages, so early bread puddings were probably made simply from milk, stale bread, fat and perhaps a sweetener. Bread puddings were not only made by the Romans.

Ancient versions of bread pudding include Om Ali, as Egyptian dessert make from bread, milk or cream, raisins and almonds; Eish es Serny, a Middle Eastern dish made from dried bread, sugar, honey syrup, rosewater and caramel; and Shahi Turka, an Indian dish made from bread, ghee, saffron, sugar, rosewater and almonds.

Today, bread puddings are not as popular as they used to be. You can usually find them in New Orleans restaurants but seldom anywhere else. They are still frequently consumed in the United Kingdom, Mexico, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Belgium and France.

So this year I am doing pumpkin bread pudding for my Thanksgiving dessert. It can be done ahead and reheated upon serving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

From Martha Stewart Living November 2012:

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Gingered Crème Anglaise

Serves 8-10

4 cups white bread, cut into cubes

4 eggs

3 egg yolks

1 ½ cups milk

1 ½ cups heavy cream

¾ cup canned pumpkin purée

1 cup granulated sugar

¼ tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. rum or brandy

¼ tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. cloves, ground

2 Tbsp. butter, cold, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9x2-inch pan. Dry bread cubes on cooking sheet in oven 10-15 minutes. Place bread cubes in pan. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all pudding ingredients except butter. Pour mixture over bread cubes. Let sit 10 minutes until bread is fully soaked. Dab butter over top. Bake 40-50 minutes. (The pudding should be set in center, but should not be dry.)


Gingered Crème Anglaise

1 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

2 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. vanilla

5 egg yolks

½ cup granulated sugar

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring milk, cream, ginger and vanilla just to a slight boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat immediately. While mixture is heating, whisk yolks and sugar until smooth. Slowly pour 1/3 cup of hot milk mixture into egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Gradually add egg yolk mixture back to remaining milk mixture in saucepan; continue whisking. Return to heat, stirring constantly, until crème coats the back of a spoon. Transfer crème to serving bowl. Pour over warm bread pudding. Serves 8-10.