I recently participated in an event my lovely friend, Anna, hosted, called Cook for a Cause. The idea is that 7 people prepare dishes featuring a secret ingredient, and 7 other people provide wine pairings. Each dish is judged on use of secret ingredient, taste, cohesiveness with other dishes, and originality. Money is donated to the winner’s choice of organization. Click here for more details about this (hopefully) monthly event.
It was a really great event – really fun with really yummy food. This month’s secret ingredient was apples, so I chose to make rustic apple tarts and an apple bread pudding. This was the first time I had ever made a bread pudding, which was probably not the best idea for a cooking competition, but I guess it worked out okay.
I started with the bread – a challah I picked up from Trader Joe’s. (If I were a different person, I might have tried to make my own bread, but yeast and I do not always get along.)
Next came the custard for the pudding…lots of eggs!
Add in heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and apple juice and you get this lovely concoction.
In addition to chunks of fresh apple, I cut up some dried apple to enhance the appley-ness.
And then dump most of the bread and the apples into the custard stuff.
After tossing to coat the bread, I poured it all into a baking dish to hang out for awhile.
After about an hour in the oven..
This picture really doesn’t do justice to the warm, creamy yumminess that resulted…it was a total shock to me, but this bread pudding won the Cook for a Cause! I was so surprised I didn’t have an organization ready to donate to…in the end I opted to donate to the Sudan House of Hope Hospital – a project my husband has been involved in.
I was really surprised how well this bread pudding was received – particularly because I was sorta making the whole thing up as I went along. I had about 4 different bread pudding recipes and was sorta piecing them together based on the results I thought I was trying to get and what I had on hand. This is the recipe I came up with…
Apple Bread Pudding
1 16-ounce loaf of challah bread, cut into ¾ inch squres (about 10 cups)
4 eggs, 1 egg yolk
¾ cup light brown sugar
4 teaspoons of vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 ½ cups heavy cream
1 cup apple juice
1 cup dried apple
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cubed (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Adjust oven racks to middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Spread bread cubes in single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake, tossing occasionally, until just dry, about 15 minutes, switching trays from top to bottom racks halfway through. Cool bread cubes about 15 minutes; set aside 2 cups.
3. Whisk eggs and yolk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in cream and juice. Add remaining 8 cups of bread cubes and fresh and dried apples. Toss mixture to coat bread and apples in custard. Transfer mixture to a 13 x 9-inch baking dish and let stand, occasionally pressing bread cubes into custard, until cubes are thoroughly saturated, about 30 minutes to an hour.
4. Spread reserved bread cubes evenly over top of soaked bread mixture and gently press into custard. Using pastry brush, dab melted butter over top of unsoaked bread pieces. Place bread pudding on rimmed baking sheet and bake on middle rack until custard has just set – about 45 to 50 minutes. (Done when pressing on center of pudding with finger reveals no runny liquid). Transfer to wire rack and cool until pudding is set and just warm – about 45 minutes. Serve.