With its base of golden-brown crusted, egg-soaked bread, this is like french toast for dessert. It comes out of the oven in a fragrant haze of maple and cinnamon. The vanilla cream accompaniment is a rich crème anglaise, a classic french dessert sauce that is made by stirring egg yolks, cream, and sugar over low heat until thick. This recipe makes about 2½ cups of vanilla cream.
Yield: Makes 12 servings
For the bread pudding:
Butter for greasing the pan
5 large eggs
2½ cups heavy cream
1 cup maple syrup
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups day-old Italian or French bread, cut into 1-inch squares
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking pan.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the cream, syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla. Add the bread squares and stir until they have absorbed the liquid. Stir in the chopped pecans. Pour into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with more cinnamon. Bake until golden brown and firm, with no wiggly spots, 35 to 40 minutes.
For the vanilla cream:
In a mixing bowl, heat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale yellow.
In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and the vanilla bean and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Pour about ½ cup of the cream into the yolks and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture back into the remaining cream and cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until it coats a spoon. Do not allow it to boil.
Remove from the heat and strain through a fine strainer.
Cool the bread pudding to room temperature and serve in squares, surrounded by spoonfuls of the vanilla cream.
For day-old bread, substitute fresh bread that has been dried slightly in a 200°F. oven.
Substitute vanilla ice cream for the vanilla cream.
Order of preparation:
• Prepare the bread pudding.
• While the pudding is baking, prepare the vanilla cream.
• The bread pudding can be refrigerated up to 6 days; microwave to reheat.
• The vanilla cream can be refrigerated up to 4 days.
Tips for preparing vanilla cream:
• Warm the yolks by stirring in a bit of the hot cream.
• Cook gently over low to medium heat; do not boil.
• For vanilla ice cream, freeze cooled vanilla cream in an ice-cream machine, following the manufacturer’s instructions.