Bread pudding is such a wholesome name; the pudding industry would do well to spread some cash around Madison Avenue and get this Plain Jane dessert a snappier handle. How about Rich Man’s French Toast? Tell me that doesn’t have moxie. Well folks, the fat-cats at Big Pudding may not be opening up their wallets anytime soon to support my rebranding efforts, but at least good people of New Orleans have already done their part by livening up the homely pudding building blocks of egg, milk, sugar and soggy bread with a much needed shot of whiskey. In Italian coffee drinking circles such an addition is known as a “correction,” a sentiment I could not agree with more.
Now since this is a Cajun recipe, let us take a moment up front to get the obligatory catchphrases out of the way: Laissez le bon temps roulez! Mon cher! Bam!
Are we done? Good. The canonical ‘Nawlins bread pudding with whiskey sauce comes from the city’s Bon Ton Cafe. Go looking for other recipes and you’ll find that while proportions differ the basic ingredients are always the same, and every last one of ‘em, from the Silver Palate Cookbook to gumbopages.com, credits the Bon Ton. Today the Junta’s chief contribution to this legacy is to suggest that you make it with challah. There are plenty of good reasons to use challah instead of French bread: it’s rich, it’s sweet, and it’s soft enough to be easily turned to a puddingy mush. But to be honest using challah is an idea this juntero came not by any conscious choice of his own but rather because, as Ben Franklin once said, “sake-bombing is the mother of invention.”
Just after I started work in Los Angeles my coworkers took me out for sushi. I shoulda known it was a setup. Eighteen hours and roughly ten thousand screaming “KAMPAI”s later I opened my eyes, rolled over, and damn near jumped out of bed when I found myself staring face to face with a half-eaten loaf of raisin challah. Raisin challah? What the hell did I do last night? I hate raisins! So it was with a hangover, a serious case of buyer’s remorse, and some puzzling questions which at press time still remain unanswered that I set about getting rid of my unwanted guest. Drowning it in as much butter, milk and sugar as possible seemed a good enough way to mask the raisins, and when I realized that making French toast would only get rid of about a quarter of my problem I decided to try something a little larger.
Booze as an inspiration! Booze as a topping! This recipe has it all! Details follow, but first a quick note: I’ve since made this recipe under better conditions, and when I do I use plain challah and a dried fruit other than raisins. The dried cherries in the photos have a tart flavor that contrasts well with the general sweetness of pudding and sauce. Craisins probably would too. And either would contrast nicely with the general grossness of raisins. But enough editorializing, here are the facts:
– 1 loaf challah
– 1 quart milk
– 3 eggs
– 1 ½ cups sugar
– 1 tbsp butter
– 2 tsp ground cinnamon
– 2 cups sugar
– ½ to 1 cup dried cherries/cranberries/raisins if you must
1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) Combine beaten eggs and milk in a large mixing bowl.
Then add sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.
3) Tear bread into chunks and add to milk-egg mixture. You’ll have to decide how much crust you want to include. I like having some as it adds a hint of texture to the otherwise homogenously soft pudding, so I slice off the tougher crust on the bottom of the loaf, and keep the rest. Let the bread sit in the mixture for about 30 minutes.
4) Stir dried cherries into mixture.
5) Pour into a baking dish greased with 1 tablespoon of butter and bake until browned and firm, 45 min to 1 hour. Then take the pudding out and try to resist that intoxicating smell long enough to get started on the…
– 1 cup sugar
– 1 stick of butter. All of it.
– 1 egg, beaten
– 2 oz. whiskey. Make it rye or bourbon, and make New Orleans proud.
1) Cream the butter and sugar together. If you are blessed with an electric mixer this means that you beat the ingredients until they resemble a foam. I used a fork which, after several minutes of stirring and squashing the chunks of butter, achieved something at least foam-esque.
2) Melt thoroughly in double-boiler.
3) Remove from heat and pour in beaten egg while frantically whisking to keep it from curdling.
4) Stir in whiskey.
Now you can finally serve the pudding: cut it into squares, set it on something oven-safe, top it with whiskey sauce, and run it under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Eat, then sit by the phone to await your call from the Nobel Prize committee. It’s that good.
Bread pudding with whiskey sauce is not exactly health food. In fact it’s an unholy alliance of every vice your kitchen has to offer: enough sugar and butter to kill a cow; liquor that doesn’t even get the alcohol cooked out of it; a mountain of carbs, if that’s sort of thing that scares you. Hell, I’m surprised the Bon Ton didn’t throw cocaine and hookers in there somewhere, and just call it a day. But at least the recipe’s vices are ones you’re likely to have in your kitchen already. Believe me when I say that never has something sounded so plain, been so simple, and tasted so delicious. Now if someone would just fix the name.