GISELE PEREZ (this article was first published on August 21, 2012)
When I was living in New York in my 20’s, I discovered a cheesecake bakery near my apartment on the Upper West Side that served the most luscious, creamy sour cream cheesecake I had ever tasted. So when I returned to Los Angeles for a family reunion, I thought, I must bring a couple of these cheesecakes home to share my discovery with everyone.
When we had finished our meal, I went on about how wonderful the cheesecake was.
“It’s not bread pudding” my father said.
Just this weekend, again in Los Angeles, I dined with my family at a restaurant where bread pudding was on the menu. As we all sampled it, my brother said, “It’s not Nanny Marion’s bread pudding.”
Bread pudding is surely the most quintessential and beloved of New Orleans desserts, inspiring nostalgic thoughts of a Ma Mere’s or Nanan’s favorite preparation. There was no Creole home in which a thrifty cook did not make this dessert to utilize- and transform- leftover French bread. My grandmother left her bread to soak overnight with plump raisins in the eggy custard.
I no longer leave mine to soak overnight, and I have strayed beyond using only French bread (my favorite leftover bread for the pudding is croissant, although Brioche or even leftover King Cake will do very nicely), I still make bread pudding often. This month, when I found myself with an abundance of ripe summer peaches, I sautéed some of them, along with a splash of bourbon for a delicious compote to serve alongside.
Bread Pudding with Sautéed Peaches
- 5 ounces stale croissants or brioche, cut into small pieces
- 2 cups half and half
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 ounces sugar
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 6- 4 ounce ramekins, well buttered
- Fill the ramekins loosely with the bread pieces.
- Scald the half and half.
- Blend together the eggs and sugar. Slowly whisk the scalded cream into the egg/sugar mixture, then pour the mixture evenly into the molds.
- Bake until set, about 20 minutes.
- Allow the puddings to set before unmolding them. Serve napped with Sautéed Peaches (recipe below)
- 2 ounces butter
- 2 cups ripe peaches
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to bubble.
- Add the peaches once the butter is melted.
- Sprinkle the sugar over the peaches and sauté for 3-4 minutes over medium high heat, until the peaches just begin to brown around the edges.
- Remove the pan from the heat and pour the bourbon into the pan. Ignite the bourbon to burn off the alcohol. Return the pan to the burner and cooking over low heat, allow the liquid to reduce slightly.