June 25, 2011

June Creative Connection

I was asked to be a part of the JUNE Creative Connection LA Breakfast on June 18. I was all ready to go with my cupcake plans and then I got really sick. I still wanted to make the cupcakes and managed to do so but I wasn't able to attend. I wanted to share some pictures that were taken at the event. The pictures are courtesy of Brienne Michelle: Photography for Life. Her website is briennemichelle.com, her blog is briennesblog.com and her number is 661.803.5811. Check her out, she's really talented and takes truly exquisite photograghs.

June 10, 2011

Bread Pudding

It's been a long time since I've blogged because a lot has happened. I was in Connecticut for a full month because my dad had surgery. I haven't gotten a lot of baking done but I did get to make a couple of things while I was home.

We bought a speciality bread from Costco, it was fruit and nut bread. It was pretty good. Since it was really humid in CT, we put it in the fridge. Who knew that bread gets stale the fastest at that temperature? Needless to say, we had a very, very hard loaf of bread on our hands. My mom asked me to make bread pudding. I made bread pudding on Easter and wasn't too happy with the results. But I thought I would give it another chance. This time I turned to my trusted food guru--Alton Brown. I watched his Good Eat's episode "The Truth is in the Bread Pudding" (I highly recommend watching this if you want to know how to make good bread pudding) and went off of his Spiced Bread pudding.

Spiced Bread Pudding
Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown, 2011

1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried orange peel
15 whole cloves
15 whole peppercorns
1/2 ounce crystallized ginger, chopped
5 cups half-and-half, divided
3 large whole eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 ounces spiced rum
1 (10-inch) stale French boule
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Place the cinnamon, nutmeg, dried orange peel, cloves, peppercorns, and ginger into 3 cups of half-and-half in a microwavable container and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Check the temperature of the mixture and microwave in 30 second increments until it reaches 180 degrees F. Cover and steep 15 minutes.

Place the eggs and yolks in a blender with an 8-cup carafe. Blend on the lowest speed for 30 seconds. Raise the speed to quarter power and slowly add the sugars and blend until thickened slightly, about 1 minute. Add the remaining 2 cups half-and-half. With the machine still running, pour in the spiced half-and-half through a small hand strainer and add the rum. Use immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 72 hours.

Preheat the oven on the lowest (or warm) setting.

Cut a 7-inch round disk off the top of the boule using a long bread knife or serrated slicer. Tear the disk into pieces and scatter in a large roasting pan. Cut all the way around the inside of the boule just inside the outer wall. Cut downward and across the interior of the bread, first in one direction, then 90 degrees to it to create a grid, the way you would cube mango flesh to remove it from the skin. Remove the plugs of bread and tear into hunks about the size of an egg. Add to the roasting pan and bake until bread is dry, 1/2 to 2 hours.

Sprinkle the fruit over the bread, pour in the custard, and press the bread to submerge all the pieces. Cover and soak for 2 hours at room temperature or for up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Pour the melted butter into a spray bottle and spritz the inside of the bread shell. Be sure to cover the bottom with a thin layer to prevent the custard from soaking through. Place the bread shell in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and place in the oven to toast the interior for 30 minutes.

Remove the bread shell from the oven and transfer the soaked bread mixture into the shell. Bake until the bread pudding souffles and reaches an internal temperature of 165 to 170 degrees F, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove and cool 30 minutes before slicing or scooping and serving.

I had to read and re-read this recipe a couple of times. It is pretty complicated, that's why I watched the corresponding Good Eat's recipe. I used the basic principles of the recipe once I learned how to construct bread pudding.

First, I had to cut the crust off the bread. It was easier said than done. My arms got a serious workout.

Once the loaf was de-crusted, I buttered my dish, cubed the bread and arranged it evenly with some golden raisens.

Once that was done, it was time to make the custard. I followed the recipe pretty exactly except I used 2 eggs and 3 egg yolks. My parent's don't exactly own rum so I used rum extract and it worked out well. The custard smelled pretty amazing so I poured it over the bread and let it sit.

Then I baked it for an hour because the internal temperature of the bread pudding reached 170 degrees.

My only regret was that I added too much pudding. It ended up settling to the bottom in a small layer. Alton designed the recipe with a little extra pudding so you could add at your discretion. I started out with less bread than his recipe requires so I should have left out about 2 cups of half and half and I would have been ok.

Nevertheless, the bread pudding was AMAZING. I'm not a 'fruit & nut' person but this was so tasty. I loved it. I hope you try this recipe and I'm sure you'll enjoy it too!