Saturday, April 30, 2011

Alton Brown's Spiced Bread Pudding

This week I made Alton Brown's spiced bread pudding from Good Eats: The Proof is in the Bread Pudding.  My first challenge was finding an appropriate loaf of bread for the project.  In keeping with Alton's method, I wanted to bake the mixture in a large boule.  Surprisingly, the bakery in my local market didn't have anything to fit the bill and the dough for the mini boules I make at home does not have enough structure to form a large enough loaf.  In the end, I took a drive to the closest bakery and found what I needed.  Well, at least it was close.  It is an Italian bakery, same as my local market, and despite outside appearance, the boule was nothing more than standard Italian bread inside.

Once I had the bread it was time to get to work.  I assembled all the ingredients with only one change, I substituted the rum with butterscotch schnapps; my wife's secret weapon for chocolate chip cookies.  As I pulled out the hardware I realized my second challenge; there's a reason Alton mentions using an 8 cup blender.  My classic Oster Beehive looks great in all it's candy apple red glory, but it has a mere 5 cup capacity and only one speed: high.  No where near the size of AB's commercial grade behemoth, I had the fun task of trying to create an emulsion while working in batches.  There was also a good deal of foam towards the end from the high speed mixing, though it settled by the time the bread was ready for soaking.

Alton's cross cut method of disemboweling the bread worked like a charm.  I set the bread sections in the oven to dry while I assembled the software.  The bread was fresh and had a good deal of moisture to release, so I left it in the oven for two hours.  Rotating the pieces every 15 minutes helped to speed the process.  Finally, I added the liquid to the bread for a good soak.  I used a large Pyrex baking dish instead of a roasting pan and it was sufficient to hold everything.  I was surprised that the bread soaked up nearly all of the liquid and it was well worth the long 2 hours.  Meanwhile, I toasted the shell in the last half hour.

The bread/custard mix fit perfectly back into the boule shell and I set it into the oven perched in a cast iron skillet as recommended.  I poked a roasting thermometer into the loaf and set the alarm for 165F instead of going by time.  I would estimate that it took around two hours to bake.  It took some serious willpower to let the bread pudding rest for half an hour since my whole house smelled delicious at that point!

So, the big question, how was it?  Definitely well worth the time and trouble.  The Italian bread boule I used lacked structure but still held up with the density of the custard.  The shell was also too tough and needed to be picked up by hand after the interior was scarfed down eaten.  Next time I'll likely just bake the bread pudding in a casserole dish and definitely use a more substantial bread; such as the challah used in the chocolate version.  The cherries and raisins were a good pair, though you could let your imagination run wild with different combination since the custard itself is rather neutral in flavor.  An extra dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla extract, or even hazelnut syrup would make a good addition.

The verdict: definitely Good Eats.

1 comment:

Cathy said...

Great stuff --- another good post to read.