Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bread Pudding with Gingered Brandy Pears and Caramel Sauce

I am keen on recycling in the kitchen, making the most of leftovers in an interesting or sometimes better form than what I started with. A perfect example is bread pudding. So many varieties, sweet, savory and a staple in restaurants with mountains of bread to recycle into croutons, crumbs, dressings and puddings. Oftentimes drenched in a boozy bath of hard sauce to make it appeal to the adults in the room. Both my husband and father have made tall, custardy puddings with that tender creamy interior, a sprinkling of raisins and a toasty, crunch of the just right browned top. This is the kind of pudding that whispers comfort and has found its way to my breakfast bowl as often as my dessert plate.

As a dessert though, it is rarely described as elegant, nor very pretty to look at if your personal filter isn't set to nostalgia mode. A recent article by Gail Monaghan for the Wall Street Journal reminds us, "Whether you call them "Winnie-the-Pooh desserts," as I do, "nursery desserts" or simply "comfort food," soft and creamy puddings call out to the kid in all of us." But, what if you could image a more sophisticated take, layered flavors and decidedly adult sensibilities without the heavy liquor? That was the question that lead me to this.

Bread Pudding with Gingered Brandy Pears and Caramel Sauce
bread pudding with gingered pears and caramel sauce
How pretty is that?

A silken bread custard, layered with tender pear slices that have been gently simmered in a ginger, brandy tea to infuse those bright flavors, topped with a creamy caramel sauce. Served warm, this is our new nostalgia.

Poached pears add a bright fruity surprise.
Bread Pudding with Gingered Pears and Caramel Sauce
Serves 12
Prep Time 1 hr 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hr to 1 hr 15 minutes

1 loaf day old french bread, cubed, most of crust removed
1 quart milk or 2 cups milk 2 cups half and half
3 eggs
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1 ½ tablespoons butter, cubed
2 tablespoons sugar in the raw

Poached Pears
3 comice or other firm pears, peeled and sliced
1 ½ cup brewed ginger tea
2 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon lemon
1 tablespoon honey

Butter 9” x 13” baking pan.
Place bread cubes in large bowl, pour in milk and soak for 1 hour.
Pre-brew 2 ginger teabags in 1 ½ cups boiling water for about 10 minutes.
Bring the tea, brandy, lemon and honey to a low boil in a medium size pan. Add in pears and lower temperature to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Cool and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325°

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla and spices. Pour over the soaked bread cubes and stir to mix thoroughly. Pour into baking dish.
Remove poached pear slices from liquid with slotted spoon and arrange on top of the wet bread pudding mixture.
Sprinkle pears with raw sugar (this will give a sparkly glaze) and dot with butter pieces.
Bake for at about an hour to an hour and a half until custard is set and top is golden. Your time might vary.  Cool at least 15 minutes before serving. Drizzle with caramel sauce.

Salted Butter Caramel Sauce
With just a cup of sugar, heavy cream and some butter (and a bit of steady stirring this wondrous concoction is yours!)  Salted Butter Caramel Sauce recipe from Jamie Schler’s Life’s a Feast Blog used with permission and joy. (Thanks Jamie!) 

For the Salted Butter Caramel Sauce (Caramel au Beurre Salé):

1 cup (200 g) granulated white sugar
3 ½ Tbs (50 g) salted butter
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream

Melt the sugar in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat and cook until completely melted and caramel in color. Lower the heat to low and whisk in the butter in about 3 or 4 additions. Continuing to whisk, add the heavy cream in a slow stream; the caramel may foam up, but keep whisking, as it will calm down once all the cream is added and will turn to… a smooth caramel. Once it is smooth and creamy, remove from the heat and allow to cool at least to tepid before serving.

Link: Nostalgic for Nursery Pudding, Gail Monaghan, Wall Street Journal.


  1. This is such a WOW dessert! Adult and very sexy! You are so creative! Who would think to add that layer of brandy-cooked pears (forget the ginger, this is all about the brandy!). What a truly gorgeous and comforting dessert, Robin. And perfect for the holidays.

  2. Dear Jamie,
    You're right! The brandy is an exquisite layer. I think we all get creative inspiration from each other. Wouldn't have been the same without your caramel sauce ♥

  3. ohhhhh, is this legal? how do you make SUCH yummy food with incredible flavor combos: peach/ginger/vanilla/cardamom? omg. beautiful post, filled with your talent for expressive flavors, so lovely!

  4. Truth be told Jenn, I spent days drinking ginger tea with honey for a sore throat! That was so comforting one thing lead to another. Hee Hee ;D

    The holidays are here and I hope all goes wonderfully as you prepare for your move. A little merriment and festivities wished your way.

  5. Pears are one of my favourite dessert ingredients - they play so well with chocolat,e caramel, wine, custard... Anything, really! Absolutely love the sound of this - decadent enough to comfort, yet with some bright flavours to lift it out of stodge. The best kind of instant nostalgia :)

  6. Me too Jeanne! Pears are so lovely. Anything to lift ourselves "out of a stodge" Love that.

  7. This certainly does look like an elegant bread pudding. I grew up learning how to recreate food in the kitchen and not to be wastefull. My mom was a pro at it. She would make several meals out of a roast and such!! Your dessert does look so special!

  8. Hi Lyndsey,
    It takes a bit of creativity and planning to make the most of our food and I actually enjoy the challenges (mostly!) I think it is great you had such a wonderful example from your Mom. I hate being wasteful, don't you?

    Thanks for dropping by! It is rainy here today and I am imagining your sunny Florida images to get me sailing through it. Cheers Lyndsey!


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