Rustic Sourwheat Bread Pudding

Rustic Sourwheat Bread Pudding

Welcome February--bringer of weather-predicting groundhogs, deliverer of that "love-is-in-the-air" atmosphere. I've come to truly appreciate you for your gentle reminder to appreciate the little things.

I have always loved living in a place that gets to enjoy all four seasons, though I do need to remind myself of that fact on those bone-chilling nights we occasionally experience in the beautiful WNC mountains. On those exceptionally cold evenings, I often turn to baking tasty treats for my family. 

There's something special about preparing something for the ones you love. Whether you reach for your measuring cups, paintbrushes, or knitting needles, a handcrafted gift is always appreciated and warms the hearts of those on the receiving end, especially during these chill winter months. That idea, paired with the fact that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, inspired me to get creative with one of our household favorites-- bread pudding.

Bread pudding is one of those dishes with which we can create endlessly creative flavor profiles. In the spring, for instance, I might choose to use our Challah as the bread base, and incorporate chocolate chips, honey, and raspberries. And our hamburger buns make an excellent, light base for a strawberry bread pudding topped with juicy grilled peaches and fresh whipped cream on a warm summer evening. Winter, on the other hand, calls for rich, hearty desserts that fill our bellies and keep us warm. This Rustic Sourwheat bread pudding came together easily, combining the delectable sourdough tang and nuttiness of whole wheat with the sweetness of homemade caramel sauce. I topped it with a dollop of fresh caramel whipped cream (because I will forever add fresh whipped cream to any dessert given the opportunity), and voila!

Warm dessert + full bellies = smiling faces.

Rustic Sourwheat Bread Pudding with Caramel & Whipped Cream
For the bread pudding:
11 cups cubed or torn Annie’s Rustic Sourwheat bread
4 cups whole milk
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
5 TBSP unsalted butter, melted; plus more for greasing
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
Optional add ins: ½ cup raisins; 1 peeled and thinly sliced apple; cardamom

For the caramel sauce:
11 TBSP unsalted butter
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
5 ounces evaporated milk
1 TBSP water
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
For the whipped cream:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
Caramel sauce to taste

Bread Pudding Instructions
1. Grease your baking vessel with butter. (If you use a narrow & deep 3 quart baking dish, the bake time will be 50-60 minutes; a wider & shallower baker may require you to drop the cooking time by 10-15 minutes. Another option would be to use a large 12-cup muffin pan, or bundt muffin pan with the bake time being about 25-35 minutes.)
2. Cube or tear the bread into small pieces and spread them evenly in a large shallow container with a lid.
3. Melt the 5 Tbsp of butter and set aside.
4. In a 3 quart bowl, mix the eggs and sugar, then add in the milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Finally, mix in the melted butter.
5. Gently pour the contents of the bowl over the bread. Use a wide spatula to toss and press the bread downward to soak up more of the liquid.
6. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, removing from the fridge at least once in order to mix the bread, mash it down, and break it up a little more.
7. Preheat your oven to 350F and remove the bread pudding mixture from the fridge. Thoroughly grease the pan(s) you plan to use for your bread pudding. Mix, mash, and break up the bread, transfer to your desired greased baking vessel, and place in your preheated oven to bake.
8. Bake time varies (see step 1). If the bread pudding seams to be getting too toasted, cover it with foil.
9. Let it cool, and then depan if necessary. While the bread pudding is cooling, make the caramel sauce and whipped cream.

Caramel Sauce Instructions
1. In a small saucepan, bring the butter, brown sugar, water, and salt to a boil, boiling for 5 minutes and stirring occasionally.
2. Remove from heat, and add the vanilla extract and 5 oz of evaporated milk. The caramel sauce will thicken a bit as it cools. 
3. To store extra caramel sauce: pour the sauce into a jar. This will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Whipped Cream Instructions
1. Whip heavy cream with hand or stand mixer until it begins to thicken.  
2. Once the whipped cream reaches almost desired thickness, add in some caramel sauce to taste, and whip until desired thickness is reached.