Bourbon Street in New Orleans is decidedly the worst place to be on Saturday mornings, the cobblestones soaked with centuries of vomit and Ajax. But in a bistro eating a piece of Bourbon-soaked bread pudding? Nothing better. The smell of this dish baking in my oven helps me to catch the scent of jasmine and magnolia that I imagine have drifted up the Mississippi to my Minnesota front porch to say Good Morning, Heart Ache, Sit Down. Oh how I miss New Orleans. Forget French toast. Make this Creole toast and swoon before noon.
Bourbon Bread Pudding
Adapted from Hy-Vee Seasons
1/2 c. dried cranberries
2 tbsp bourbon
1 1/4 c. skim milk
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 c. pecan pieces
1 (16 oz) loaf light rye bread, cubed (I never throw away stale bread–I’m actually rather pleased when bread goes stale because then I have an excuse to make this dish.)
Bourbon Sauce (I put maple syrup on this one because it fit better with the breakfast context for me—and my finals for family medicine are next week– I can’t risk the bourbon intake on my feeble over-taxed neurons):
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. light corn syrup
1/4 c. unsalted butter
1/4 c. bourbon
In a small bowl, combine dried cranberries and bourbon. Let sit for 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cranberries and set aside. Reserve the leftover bourbon liquid.
In a large bowl, whisk together the reserved bourbon liquid, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, eggs and pecans. Add the cubed bread to the liquid mixture. Toss the bread in the liquid until evenly coated.
Place the mixture into a greased 8-inch square baking dish. Evenly sprinkle the bourbon-soaked cranberries on top of the bread. Cover baking dish with foil and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight to allow the liquid to absorb into the bread.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fill a 9-by-13-inch baking pan (or large enough pan to fit prepared square baking dish) with 3/4-inch hot water. Place prepared baking pan with the bread pudding into the pan filled with water to create a water bath. Be careful that the water does not go into the 8-inch baking dish. Bake bread pudding covered with foil for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with Bourbon Sauce (or Maple Syrup)–
To make Bourbon Sauce, combine sugar, corn syrup and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add bourbon. Stir until combined. Serve immediately over cooked bread pudding.
Even though Izzy never lived in New Orleans with us– she is a Nebraskan native– I can tell she has a deep longing for the South. Whenever I play Billie Holiday music for her she gets this soulful melancholy. Perhaps in another life she was in love with Billie Holiday’s bulldog.