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Honeycrisp Apple Pecan Bread Pudding

 

After a pretty spectacular summer in Seattle, the fall season has stealthily swept in, despite our still sunny, 75 degree weather.  In the grocery store we are getting our first crop of fresh fall apples out of Yakima and Rainier Valley and they are absolutely delicious. After purchasing some gorgeous, almost too beautiful to eat, Honeycrisp apples, I decided that it was definitely time to experiment with some fall flavored recipes. Honeycrisp are not only one of the best apples to enjoy raw, but they make great cooking apples as well; this is mostly due to their intense crispness and a light sweetness that is very well balanced to the apples refreshing acidity…

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The best part about this recipe is that you can substitute a multitude of ingredients for the formally listed ingredients if you happen to be shorthanded or cannot find a certain item. It just so happens, I was out of milk when I made this particular bread pudding, so I substituted half and half with the last 1/4 cup as water and I have to say that the bread pudding came out creamy and better than ever. I was also hoping to use some fresh grated ginger but didn’t have any on hand, so I settled for ground ginger and it still tasted fantastic. I always recommend using fresh or fresh ground herbs and spices if you have access to them, but utilizing dried herbs works out equally well in a pinch or say, in the dead of winter.  I make up for it in my recipes by adding a little extra of each of the dried herbs/spices to help intensify flavors.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tb butter
  • 1 large Honeycrisp apple
  • 4 cups cubed, dried french bread of bread of choice
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 and 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tb Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg (if available)
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger (if available)

Pecan Crumb Topping:

  • 2 Tb butter, softened
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tb flour or GF flour substitute
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

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Instructions:   Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.

Start by slicing a loaf of french bread, or whatever particular bread/rolls you would like to use into medium sized cubes.  I chose to use ciabatta rolls leftover from a summer barbecue instead of purchasing a new loaf of french bread. Yet again, the beauty of this recipe is that you can experiment using any bread you would like to, which makes it perfect for using up leftovers or substituting gluten free rolls/bread if need be. Spread the cubes evenly onto a sheet pan and place in the center of a 350 degree oven. Allow the cubed bread to dry for 10-15 minutes, stirring twice to rotate the cubes evenly. The key to success with bread pudding is making sure your bread is as dry as possible.  This allows the custard to thicken correctly so that your bread pudding doesn’t have any extra liquid floating around in the final product.

While the bread is drying, chop one large Honeycrisp apple into small cubes and place in a saucepan to simmer with the butter and brown sugar. Start with the heat on medium to low until the apple has released some of its moisture, then allow to simmer with butter and sugar, covered, about 10 minutes, or until the apple has softened and sauce is thick. Set off to the side while you prepare the custard.

Beat eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl until well combined and frothy.  Add the ground cinnamon, fresh ground nutmeg, and ground ginger to the custard mixture, and don’t be shy! This is where all the fall flavors come together. Next time I am definitely going to try substituting fresh grated ginger for the ground ginger to give the custard a spicy little kick that will really complement the Honeycrisp apple. Once your custard is well mixed, set aside.

Place your dried bread cubes in an ungreased 9×9 square baking pan and drizzle the cooked apple with brown sugar sauce evenly over the bread cubes.  Pour the custard mixture evenly into the pan, making sure everything is well coated before applying the pecan topping.

In a small side bowl, mix the softened butter, brown sugar, and flour together with a fork until combined and crumbling.  Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the top of the custard first, then crumble the sugar, butter, flour mixture evenly over the pecans.

Bake in the 350 degree oven for 45-55 minutes. Test the center with a butter knife to check for doneness. The custard is ready when the knife inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean.  Let cool slightly and serve! This is also great with a traditional style whiskey sauce drizzled over the top. Yum!

Hint: I always have better (and faster) success with bread pudding if I bake it in a water bath. This helps the custard cook evenly throughout so that you are not waiting for the middle to finish cooking as the edges and top overcook. Simply fill a roasting pan large enough to hold your 9×9 pan with about an inch and a half to two inches of water. Place your bread pudding in the center of the pan and bake away!

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You really cannot go wrong with this recipe. If the custard doesn’t seem like its quite cooked enough, cook it a little longer.  If the top of the bread pudding is getting a little dark, cover it loosely with foil and keep on cooking.  Be patient because your patience will definitely be rewarded.  As a standout at weekend brunch, a decadent breakfast, or a traditional dessert, Honeycrisp apple pecan bread pudding is delicious at pretty much any time of day. Don’t be afraid to adorn with fresh whipped cream, ice cream, whiskey sauce, or my favorite, a drizzle of Amaro Nonino. Enjoy!

Questions while cooking? Post in the comment section and I will do my utmost to help with your kitchen crisis. Don’t be afraid to experiment, I would love to hear how your test run of this recipe turns out.

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