Last time she came to visit, my mom brought me some caramel apple bread pudding from the extremely popular Gayles Bakery in Capitola. I’ve been thinking of doing a hand-held bread pudding, and Gayles bakes theirs individually in large muffin tins and serves them in a paper wrapper. Now I am not a big bread pudding fan. The cold custard-ey texture and bland flavor is usually a turn off. I’ve had chocolate bread pudding that I loved because it tasted like a brownie. But why not just have a brownie? Anyway, the bread pudding from Gayles was cold and custard-ey, but I found that instead of it being a turn off, I could not stop eating. I think I finally got that “comfort” element that so many people find appealing about bread pudding.
To the internets! Thinly sliced granny smith apples caramelized on the stove top in butter and brown sugar sounded like a good place to start. Because brown sugar and melted butter look exactly like maple syrup, I had to add some of my favorite ingredient to the skillet. Then the maple syrup reminded me of my favorite apple crumble with maple and cranberry. So in goes cranberry, and some pecans too, cause bread pudding needs some crunch and pecans love to swim in sweet, sweet maple.
The only bread I had was a Rustic Tartine loaf I’d baked (lots of chewy crust and an almost sour flavor, made with a starter and a small percentage of whole wheat flour). Rock-n-roll. I loved the extra flavor this bread added, as well as the texture. I was not happy however, with the way it turned out baked in individual sizes. Too much of the bread was above the top of the muffin cup, leaving a segregated layer of super custardy mush, topped with crispy bread. Mixing and letting the bread soak up the custard first ended up without a custard-ey consistency at all.
This weekend I was having company and wanted to bake up the best, most flavorful bread pudding I could. I started with my usual apple maple mix & sourdough bread cubes, and tried out a new custard which was almost like egg nogg – sweet, creamy with vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and brandy. Baked in a regular dish & served with some vanilla ice cream she was delish! The only thing I might try next, is to layer it: bread layer, apple layer, another bread, then top with custard. Try it out if you are in the mood for bread pudding. Make sure to share with friends, it makes a lot! I don’t want to be blamed for the way you will feel after devouring half a pan of this stuff.