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Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Something New

Last month, while I was in Paducah, Kentucky, I tried something new. In all of my travels and through all of my experimentation with different cuisines I had never actually eaten Bread Pudding until I had lunch one beautiful spring day at the Stranded Cow in Paducan's Lowertown Arts District. I guess it was the raisins that put me off. That day seemed tailor made for trying something new and so I ordered the Bread Pudding for dessert and dug in.

Mmmmm! The flavors were luscious. Cream and sugar with vanilla and cinnamon wrapped around the texture and tang of nuts and fruit and punctuated with a smooth hint of whiskey. The creaminess was exquisite and gracefully balanced by the firm but even texture of the bread. The nuts added interest and the dried fruit was plump and, well, chewy(?).... but never mind about that. I really enjoyed it, raisins and all, and have been eager to try making it at home.

A Basic Plan

I asked Grace, owner of the Stranded Cow, for her recipe. She offered me what help she could. It seems she cooks like my aunts often did, with more of a list of basic ingredients than a recipe. She offered that her Bread Pudding was a composition of:
  • Bread
  • Raisins
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Walnuts
  • Brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla
  • And Enough Milk and Eggs to make it really moist.
  • Then bake until firm.

I knew I could work with that but wanted a little more direction so I turned to Epicurious. There I found a recipe for Bread Pudding with Warm Bourbon Sauce and used that as a guide. From there I made a few adaptations:

  1. The recipe called for day old cinnamon raisin bread but there is a wonderful cinnamon bread available at my local market, Harvest Mill Breadmakers Cinnamon Log, which contains no raisins. I used it instead.
  2. To follow Grace’s lead I did actually look around my kitchen for some raisins to add in an effort to be authentic. I couldn’t find any. (I guess I should have saved that package from the airplane back from Kentucky, the one that came in one of those purchased snack boxes the airline offers, instead of discreetly tucking the little package into the magazine pocket in front of me.) I did find dried cranberries though, and in hopes of making them less "raisiny," I plumped them up before assembling the Bread Pudding by soaking them in a mixture of whiskey and orange juice in the refrigerator overnight. That made them good enough that I was tempted to just eat them on the spot instead of putting them in the recipe, but I did have this post to write…
  3. I also added toasted nuts to match Grace’s version. I toasted walnuts, but any type of nuts could be used.
  4. I doubled the amount of milk and omitted the whipping cream. To make the dessert richer you could use half whipping cream but I am more likely to make it for a casual dessert if the ingredients are a bit lighter.
  5. I used brown sugar instead of white sugar to enhance the casual southern flavor of the luscious cream and sugar base.
  6. Epicuious calls for placing the pan of Bread Pudding in a large metal pan to which boiling water is added to a depth of 1 inch along the side of the bread pudding dish, before baking. I didn’t do this, mostly because I forgot, and mine turned out great. Still, if you like your bread pudding on the moist side this sounds like a great idea. It might also work to just add a separate pan of boiling water to the oven on a rack beneath the bread pudding or set just to the side.
So here is the recipe I ended up with:

Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

4 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
¼ cup brown sugar
1 or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
5 cups day old cinnamon bread, cut into ½ inch pieces
½ cup dried cranberries (soaked in 2 Tablespoons whiskey or orange juice)
½ cup toasted nuts

Bourbon Sauce

whipped cream

Prepare an 8-inch square baking dish by buttering the sides and bottom of the pan.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt.

Mix the bread, soaked cranberries and toasted nuts and arrange in the prepared pan.

Pour the milk mixture over the top of the bread and let stand for five or ten minutes pressing any dry bread on the top gently down into the custard mixture.

Refrigerate the mixture for several hours or until ready to bake.

Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 50 minutes, or until pudding is puffy and golden.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

Serve warm topped with Bourbon Sauce and whipped cream.

Bourbon Sauce

¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey
Pinch of salt

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.

Add the remaining ingredients, whisking until well combined.

Simmer, whisking often, until thickened, approximately 3 minutes.

Cool slightly and serve over warm Bread Pudding.

I think this bourbon sauce might also be great over butter pecan ice cream, or as a topping for cheesecake.

Or for a simpler, stronger Bourbon Sauce that doesn’t need to be cooked try:

1 stick butter, melted
3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup whiskey

Mix until well combined. Adjust quantities to achieve the consistency you desire.

This recipe turned out great! I will definitely be making this again.

What's more, this is really the kind of recipe that can be adapted to whatever is on hand. It could be made with other dried fruit or nuts or none at all. It could also be made with leftover Challah or French Bread, just add a bit more sugar and cinnamon. Or you could omit the sugar and topping all together and add cheese, fresh herbs and/or other bits and pieces to create a savory bread pudding. You could change the spices and ingredients seasonally. The ideas for variations are endless. Just sitting here I am thinking how great it would be to make:

Alvine's Bread Pudding (topped with chocolate and meringue)
Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding
Coconut Banana Bread Pudding
Peanut Butter Bread Pudding
Cheese Bread Pudding………….

I'll let you know if I come up with anything wonderful!


Anonymous said...


You need to know how much this tickles me! Blog on and come back soon.


P.S. how wonderful do you feel wearing your new necklace?

Sylvie said...

What a great looking bread pudding and the bourbon sauce just gotta be perfect with it!

Unknown said...

This recipe sounds ridiculous! I'm a little excited to try it, myself...thanks for sharing!

Patricia Scarpin said...

That is the type of decadent dessert I wish I could have right now, Lisa!

Stef said...

I love bread pudding! You're right, there are so many great ways to make it! Yours looks fantastic!

the southern hostess said...

This sounds so rich and incredible!

Lisa said...

Grace - Glad you like the post. My visit to Lowertown was an inspiration to me in many ways. I do hope to come back soon..... And the necklace is great!

Sylvie - The bourbon sauce has a great flavor, in fact it is worth doubling the recipe so that you have some on hand for other uses.

Rivka - I hope you try it. If you do, let me know how it turns out.

Patricia - Me too, now that you mention it! The pan I made didn't last long...

Stef - Thanks! I can't wait to try another version.

Southern Hostess - Thank you! It really was delicious.

Thank you all for stopping by!

Nic said...

Mmmmm... I love the sound of this, the sauce goes really well with it too! Thanks for sharing!

Gourmet Mama said...

I frequently make bread pudding, but usually add fresh fruit (apples, peaches, etc.). And I've never used a water bath . . . I just bake it straight. Always turns out luscious! Definitely need to try the bourbon sauce though. :D

Katie said...

Bread pudding is one of my favorites and this recipe is quite similar to my own 'method'(meaning that I do not use a real recipe but incorporate what is on hand with the basic ingredients) My very, very best version uses leftover, homemade biscuits that have been split, buttered and toasted...add some dried peaches cut into small pieces, the plumped cranberries, toasted nuts and usually a chopped apple. The bourbon sauce is a must--mine is the second version with powdered sugar and I usually use Southern Comfort instead of bourbon cause that's what I keep for sore throats. #2 Try making bread pudding from butter croissants..get them marked down at the bakery dept and cut into pieces--I let them sit out on countertop overnight before stirring up the pudding. You gotta' try these two if you love BP!

Lisa said...

Katie - Thank you for sharing your comments!
Using biscuits, as you describe, sounds delicious. I know from experience that biscuits make a great Bread Pudding. I have also been wanting to try a variation with croissants. Thanks for the reminder.

There are so many great ways to approach this thrifty and practical dessert. I still can't believe it took me so long to get around to trying it!