July 7, 2009
Carmel Apple Bread Pudding (Recipe)
Every summer it seems, we wind up having guests who for all intents and purposes live with us. While our refrigerator contains enough food for myself, the wife, and the kids to get by it isn't quite set up to take on additional comers, and given that most of our friends are for lack of a better word "hippies" the budget doesn't expand much with their arrival. Fortunately many local churches offer food boxes for those without an income, and while the merit of giving said food boxes to traveling road kids is probably debatable, my family and I certainly aren't going to turn up our noses at incoming food, no matter its origin.
While it's easy to find a place for cans of tuna or Top Ramen, one of the biggest problems with food boxes is that some things are scarce (meat and produce) while others are abundant (mainly junk foods and canned soups). After all, these are things that other people no longer wanted, for the most part. While there's always a few things collected from food drives that are quality, most things donated by businesses are things that are no longer salable. One of the biggest is bread that's past its prime. Which is fine, except that often these boxes are loaded with it. It would take a ravenous appetite or a large group to make much of a dent in it before it could turn. So it takes creativity to find uses for it without allowing it to go to waste. Having been homeless myself for about a year, and having had that experience not long after leaving culinary school, I spent a lot of time ruminating on how to make these cast-offs into something more interesting.
Sometimes it's hard. But I have to admit, when I first saw the box of stale croissants in this recent pile of baked goods, I knew instantly that I wanted to make bread pudding. It's a forgiving dessert and one that actually looks for the bread that makes it to be past its prime. Besides that, it's delicious. After a few people sampled the croissants and could tell that they were practically inedible for sandwich making purposes, they got set aside and I waited for an opportunity to get to work.
Finally, this last week I got home from my graveyard shift with an abundance of energy. I'd spent the night reading the recipes from the latest round of Foodie Fights and had cooking on my mind. Plus my wife was already at work and my guests would still be off camping until that evening.
Carmel Apple Bread Pudding (Modified from The Joy of Cooking's New Orleans Bread Pudding)
3 Tablespoons softened butter, spread over a 13x9 baking dish.
9-10 croissants, sliced in half inch slices.
The original recipe called for one and a quarter pounds of French bread, but since I had 12 croissants to work with, I merely layered as many half inch slices of croissants into the pan as would fit. I used just over nine, though your results may vary, especially if you get those extra-large croissants made especially for sandwiches.
1 cup dried apples, broken into pieces.
Another food box acquisition, I used dried apples in place of raisins. Once you have stuffed the pan full of rows of croissant, all you have to do is slip in the pieces of dried apples in between the slices, aiming for an even distribution.
3 large eggs
Whisk until frothy in a bowl large enough to accommodate the following ingredients;
4 cups whole milk
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Whisk these ingredients into the eggs, then pour it over the croissants, allowing it to soak in for about an hour. Every ten minutes or so during the wait, press down on the croissants to make sure that the top pieces get an even coating of the egg mixture.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, then bake until the top puffs up and is barely browned, 50 minutes to one hour.
After baking, top with;
This was the final "found" ingredient and was used due to convenience, however I'm sure a homemade sauce would make the dish even better. Let the pudding cool for another hour, then slice and serve or refrigerate for use within the next couple of days. Serve with:
The final product? Every bit as delicious as I'd hoped. I over baked mine, cooking it for the full hour despite the fact my nose had warned me otherwise, and the edges were a bit charred..however, some slight trimming and no one who ate it was the wiser. The choice of croissants for the bread, as well as the use of maple syrup instead of vanilla, created a dessert that was both sweet and refreshingly moist. The dried apples were able to absorb a great deal of the flavor from the liquid ingredients, and came out just as tasty as if I'd topped an ordinary bread pudding with the contents of a hot apple pie, and the choice of caramel as a topping worked out wonderfully. I imagine most recipes I'll be posting on here are things I've made many times, and refined, but this one didn't need it. It was perhaps providence-for instance, the choice of maple syrup was merely due to a lack of vanilla, and I feel the pudding was richer for it-but working without preparation on merely a strong desire to eat bread pudding, I turned out a dessert I know I'll make again and again.