Pumpkin bread pudding with caramel sauce
2 cups half-and-half
One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 cup brown sugar, packed, plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 cups bread cubes
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 stick butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
Preheat oven to 350. Whisk half-and-half, pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, spices and vanilla extract in a large bowl to blend. Fold in the bread cubes, then stir in the golden raisins. Transfer mixture to an 11-by-7-inch glass baking dish. Let stand at least 20 minutes. Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
While pudding is baking, make the sauce. Whisk the brown sugar and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes. When pudding is done, sift powdered sugar over and serve warm with the sauce.
Cranberry bread pudding
6 cups stale bread, cubed
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 cups whole milk
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup butter
Butter a 9-by-13-inch pan. Preheat oven to 350. Place bread cubes in the pan. In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, both fresh and dried, milk, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and butter. Bring to a simmer, then remove pan from heat and let cool a few minutes. Whisk the eggs in a bowl. While still whisking, add the eggs to the milk mixture and stir well. Pour over the cubed bread. Bake 45 minutes or until pudding is golden brown on top. Serve garnished with whipped cream, or with either a caramel sauce or whiskey sauce.
Chocolate bread pudding
4 cups day-old bread, cut into cubes
3 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
10 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, cut into bits
Generously butter a 2 1/2- to 3-quart dish. Put bread in dish. Heat half-and-half, sugar, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved and mixture is hot but not boiling. Remove from heat and add chocolate, then let stand 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Lightly beat eggs together in a large bowl and slowly add chocolate mixture, whisking until combined. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over bread and let soak at room temperature, pressing bread down occasionally, 1 hour. Dot top of pudding with butter bits. Bake in a hot water bath until edge is set but pudding still shakes slightly in the middle, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool to warm, then serve.
Here's a popular topping for bread puddings.
8 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup Scotch or Bourbon (more if you want)
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
In the top of a double boiler set over but not touching a pot of barely simmering water, combine the butter, brown sugar and whiskey. Whisk until butter and sugar are melted and the mixture is smooth. Add yolks and keep whisking until sauce is very thick, 7-10 minutes. It should have the consistency of a caramel sauce. Serve sauce hot or cool. It thickens as it cools.