Prune Bread Pudding
EATING FOR BEGINNERS
Melanie’s Prune Bread Pudding is the last recipe that appears in Eating for Beginners. By the time I invented it, I had completed my rounds of all the stations in the restaurant kitchen—salads, fish, grill—and landed, blissfully, at the pastry station, where I spent my afternoons and nights adrift in a sea of chocolate, fruit, sugars of all kinds, and homemade ice cream. I spent so much of my time in that kitchen admiring the chefs’ ability to create new dishes every single day, something I’ve never been good at, so it was a great triumph when the pastry chef not only asked me for my input on the final dessert for that night’s menu, but actually let me make (with his assistance, of course) what I suggested. It was an arrival of sorts, and while bread pudding may not be the fanciest dessert, it’s certainly one of the most satisfying. For me, it’s been even more so ever since I dreamed this one up because it represents the moment I came into my own in the kitchen.
Melanie’s Prune Bread Pudding
Prep time: 1 hour
Note: You can substitute other dried fruits if prunes aren’t to your liking, and this is a great recipe to make ahead of time and then reheat in the oven either whole or in individual portions. Ice cream goes very well with it (though I confess, I can’t really think of any dessert ice cream doesn’t go well with…).
2 cups dried prunes
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1–2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1½ teaspoons salt
1 loaf good white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes, dried overnight
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
3 cups heavy cream
4 large eggs
5 egg yolks
1 cup sour cream
½ cup sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Place prunes in a saucepan with the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add water to about two inches above the prunes. Cook over medium heat until water is reduced to the tops of the prunes.
3. Strain the prunes and purée them in a food processor or blender.
4. Place the bread cubes in a bowl and pour the melted butter over them, tossing to make sure they’re all buttered.
5. Mix together the cream, eggs, egg yolks and sour cream in another bowl.
6. Add the prune purée and the sugar to the cream/egg mixture. If the addition of the prunes makes the mixture more of a paste than a liquid, thin with cream until it is easily pourable.
7. Place the bread cubes in a 9 X 13 X 2 inch baking dish, and then pour the prune/cream mixture over them. The bread should be completely soaked.
8. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove the foil and return the pan to the oven just long enough to brown the top of the bread pudding. Let cool before cutting into squares to serve.
Yield: About 8 servings, depending on how big you cut the pieces.