One thing I've learned as a food blogger is that it really only makes sense to post food dishes in the appropriate season. Hearty foods in the cooler months, cold salads in warmer ones, and so on.
If you don't like bread pudding, this looks like an ugly mess with ice cream, but if you do, this represents a delicious confection!
That doesn't mean, however, that I prepare food that is solely redolent of the current season. In the privacy of my kitchen I might be baking pumpkin bread in March or simmering a hearty beef stew in June. But it's not likely to be reflected on my blog. I'll take the photos and write up my notes and save the draft until it feels more seasonally appropriate to post.
Lately I've been eying my stash of apples, which have been hanging around the fridge since at least late winter sometime (apples last nearly forever). Last week I cooked up a big batch of homemade applesauce, some of which I used in applesauce muffins for my mother (saved n the "drafts" folder until the fall.) I also baked Dorie Greenspan's Oatmeal Breakfast Bread, which calls for applesauce (saved in the "drafts" folder until the recipe gets chosen for TWD. Sneak preview: it's delicious!) That left me just a few more slightly shopworn apples kicking around.
Enter the genius of Liz of the blog Cake... or Death? (if you think the blog title is cute, just check out her blog!), who brilliantly chose Apple-Apple Bread Pudding for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection. The recipe is beautifully adaptable - Dorie gives instructions - for seasonal produce, yet it allows folks like me to use up those lingering apples in the back of the produce drawer. And I can post an apple recipe in May and not have to wait until September. See how that works? Perfect.
- Liz has the recipe on her blog post, but as always I urge you to buy the fook Baking: From My Home to Yours.
- There are actually a fair number of steps and elements required by this recipe, and I decided to make it a bit more complicated. Here's the basic method: take slices of a plain, preferably buttery, bread, cut it in triangles, spread one side with apple butter, layer it in a baking pan with caramelized apples in between bread slices. Then pour a custard over everything, let it soak into the bread, and bake in a water bath until done.
- I was planning to bake some yeast bread for this recipe but then I realized that there were 2 slices remaining of Dorie's oatmeal breakfast bread. (You can find the recipe by clicking here). I baked my loaf with lots of homemade applesauce, along with whole wheat and oat flours, palm sugar, currants, pecans and some fragrant spices. I wasn't sure how a quick bread would work as a bread pudding base, but I figured it was worth a try. I guessed that my bread was the right amount for 1/3 recipe of bread pudding.
- I decided to use up some more apples by making my own apple butter. I found an apple butter recipe on the blog Simply Recipes. The only real change I made was to use palm sugar. While the apples were cooking, all I could smell in the house was the apple cider vinegar, but luckily the finished apple butter tasted very nice. Apple butter is not difficult to make, but it has several steps and takes a fair amount of time and some specialty equipment. I got to use my mother's old food mill, which I've actually used on several occasions in the past year.
My mother gave me her old food mill last year; it has come in surprisingly handy. In this recipe, the apples are put through the mill, core, peel and all.
- I changed up the custard ingredients just a bit, using boiled apple cider from King Arthur - a very intense apple syrup - instead of vanilla, and palm sugar for a sweetener. Also, I was out of milk, so used a combination of cream and buttermilk.
This was the apple after being cooked, milled, and combined with sugar and spices. The next step was more cooking/thickening.
- Although dried fruit is pretty common in bread puddings I've known and loved, I've never heard of a bread pudding with fresh fruit. Dorie includes caramelized apples in this recipe, which I made with Honeycrisp apple and granulated maple sugar.
- When I assembled the bread pudding the slices of bread were too thick to layer and too delicate to handle much without crumbling. I just spread apple butter on the bread, tucked the caramelized apples around as best I could and poured custard into the dish until it looked "right". There was a lot of custard left over. Consequently my bread pudding had a higher proportion of apples because I didn't use all of the custard and I didn't have a ton of bread.
Some of the apple-y bread pudding elements:
top, apple butter,
bottom, left, oatmeal breakfast bread with apples and currants,
bottom, right, caramelized apples with their buttery juices
- I popped the pudding into its water bath in the oven without giving it any soak time. I baked it until the custard was set.
- Dorie lists an optional glaze for the top of the pudding, using apple jelly boiled with water. I could not resist an easy opportunity to add another form of apple to my pudding, so that's why it is so shiny in the pictures.
- I served the warm bread pudding with leftover burnt sugar ice cream, and drizzled it all with some more of the King Arthur boiled cider syrup.
An apple jelly glaze made the pudding nice and shiny!
Bread pudding haters are legion, and I'm not sure that my pudding will convince any of them to change their views. As I look at the pictures, everything looks messy and smooshed-together, and really, it was that way. But a spoonful of this mishmash creation is Bread Pudding Heaven combined with Apple Heaven.
The caramelized fresh apples - along with the apple quick bread, apple butter, boiled apple cider and apple jelly - took this from being a typical bread pudding to something quite different and very complex. It reminded me a lot of an apple crisp, but without the crisp. It was soft but firm with a hint of spice, and the currants, nuts, and whole grains of the quick bread lent the pudding a bit of heft. All of the many elements combined together to produce a lovely effect.
This dessert was perfect when eaten warm with ice cream, but proved irresistible cold from the fridge. Thanks, Liz, for the great pick; it's the best thing to come out of my kitchen in quite a while!