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Apple Bread Pudding with Dried Apricots & Sage

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So I didn’t tell anyone that I took the last five or six of their dried apricots from the kitchen, which had been left out for more than a week. What I did was chop them up and fold them into a rich, milky concoction of chopped apples, brown sugar, beaten eggs and tears of stale bread. There it stayed to soak for a while. Then into the oven it went, with pats of butter on top.

And out came the best version of a bread pudding dessert I’ve ever had. I’m a huge fan of bread pudding, that miracle job for stale bread-turned-sublime. I’ve made savory versions of it when the garden was in full swing, and I wasn’t sure what to do with a handful of cherry tomatoes and random vegetables that were just harvested, too. For an environment that frequently has stale bread sitting around in large quantities (thanks to Orwasher’s Bakery, which makes bread with a Sixpoint beer and occasionally drops off bags full of their loaves), and eggs from the hens outside, this is a no-brainer fix for lunch. But a late-afternoon dessert in the dead of winter is a welcome treat as well.

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When soaked enough with eggs and milk, the texture of sodden bread pieces, once stale, becomes a custard when cooked. It lends a more savory, yeast-y note to what would be a typical creme anglaise, or egg custard, and because it breaks apart in the solution it gives it more lightness without having to be whipped. Add some sugar, and fresh and dried fruit while it all soaks, and the whole thing absorbs these delicious flavors down to the last crumb.

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I can’t say enough good things about bread pudding; it’s one of the best things I’ve learned to do in life. If you’re new to making it, this recipe is a good start, but keep in mind that you can add any fruit to it, as well as nuts or chocolate bits or whatever you have on hand. I didn’t go out and purchase anything for it, but used an apple that had gotten so overripe it was unpleasant to look at, and a handful of sage, one of the only plants still keeping on this winter season in the garden.

Apple Bread Pudding with Dried Apricots & Sage
(makes about 8 servings)

3 cups torn, stale bread, preferably a baguette or other European-style loaf, in coarse 1″ pieces
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 ripe apple, peeled, cored and sliced (as if you were making apple pie)
6 dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, slivered
4 tablespoons butter

Beat the eggs with the brown sugar and beat in the milk. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the butter and pack down the bread until soaked through. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pack the mixture into a lightly buttered 9″ deep pie or tart pan. Slice the butter into thin pats and arrange evenly on top. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until lightly golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Comments

Comment from Todd
Time April 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm

I really like the idea of that combination of flavors (big fan of bread pudding in general as well). Awesome recipe.

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