I spent the first week of this month teaching a course on Stocks and Sauces at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. It was a magical week; one that left me feeling energized, inspired, and ready to plunge back into my work. My students were from as far away as Seattle and each brought curiosity, determination, and joy to the kitchen. Over five days, we commiserated over broken hollandaise and built our arm muscles whisking everything from veloute to beurre blanc. We gorged on spoonfuls of sauce and I hope to never have to taste multiple batches of mayonnaise ever again.
On the final night, my students and I prepared a special dinner that highlighted the techniques we had focused on over the week. We made a vinaigrette for a roasted beet salad with chunks of blue cheese and candied pecans to begin the evening. For the main course, we roasted chicken and made a pan gravy, whipped up a batch of mock hollandaise (we had had enough of the real thing by this point) for asparagus, and made a creamy mornay for an out-of-this-world macaroni and cheese. For dessert, we made this apple and almond bread pudding.
For all its simplicity it was the highlight of the meal and it wasn’t just because we had served it with a scoop of homemade ice cream made from several batches of creme anglaise with a swirl of caramel sauce. Although let it be known, that no one was complaining about this extravagant touch. It’s just a solid dessert and one that you should have in your repertoire.
I like a dessert that utilizes what I have on hand and day-old bread, eggs, and milk are never hard to find in my pantry. A traditional approach would have you prepare this dish with raisins, vanilla extract, and pecans, but replacing those ingredients with apple slices, almond extract, and almonds respectively gives your standard bread pudding a sophisticated twist.
The addition of an apple makes this a quintessential autumn recipe and one should make this now when apples are at their best. While I prefer a sweet-tart apple for this dish, any baking apple will do. The pudding can be made ahead, but I recommend adding the apple no more than 30 minutes before baking to prevent it from oxidizing.
Apple Bread Pudding Printer Friendly Recipe
6 cups day-old, 1-inch bread cubes from a loaf of French or Italian bread
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 small red baking apple, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Serve with: Whiskey-Butter Sauce (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square-baking dish. Place the cubed bread in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs and then add the heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, cinnamon, and almond extract. Stir to combine.
Pour the egg mixture over the bread pieces and toss to coat. Add the apple slices and almonds and allow the bread to soak for at least ten minutes.
Spoon the bread mixture into the prepared baking dish and pour any remaining liquid over the top of the bread. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the pudding is just set. Serve warm with the whiskey-butter sauce (recipe follows).
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons butter
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons whiskey
In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, butter, and heavy cream to a boil, stirring often. In a small bowl, combine the water and cornstarch to make a slurry and then whisk it into the sugar and cream mixture. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the whiskey. Return the sauce to the heat and cook for 1 minute. Serve warm over the bread pudding.