Dessert descriptions are thorny things. When it comes to sweet things I find that eloquence often fails me, and unhelpfully divide desserts into two camps, delicious… or, not. While clear cut, these categories do not offer the reader much to recommend this decadent Salted Caramel & Pear Bread Pudding. Besides the obvious “delicious, ”a brief description is in order. Salted Caramel & Pear Bread Pudding has some great things going for it. The bread is toasted to maximize its ability to absorb all the decadent custard, the custard is silky and aromatic with a whopping ¼ cup of vanilla, and is further treated to a topping of caramelized pears with accompanying pan sauce of pear infused salted caramel. For all its flavor and texture complexity, this dessert is also subtle and balanced. This recipe is adapted from one of our favorite cookbooks: Rustic Fruit Desserts. The gorgeous pears for this dish come from our Penn's Corner CSA.
Yield: Serves 8-10
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 1/2 pounds stale bread (French, Italian, challah or brioche), cut into 1 inch squares (about 1 medium loaf or 8 cups)
Caramelized Pear Topping
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6-8 Seckle (or other small) pear cored and quartered
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- For the bread pudding: If your bread is not already stale, place cubed bread on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 oven for 10-15 minutes until crisped and golden, this will allow the bread to better absorb the custard and maintain its structure during cooking.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the pudding ingredients; eggs, sugar, vanilla, almond, salt, milk, cream. Whisk until mixture is smooth.
- To the pudding mixture, add the stale bread and push down to submerge and coat all the bread. Let sit covered, while you prepare the rest of the recipe, stirring occasionally to ensure all the bread is covered.
- For the Caramelized Pear Topping: Melt the butter in a large (12 inch skillet) over high heat. Sprinkle the sugar over the melted butter and distribute the pears evenly over the butter and sugar mixture. Keep the heat on high and allow the pears to cook undisturbed for 8 minutes. You are looking for the forming caramel to change colors from sandy to amber. Carefully flip the pears with tongs when you observe this color change. When you flip the pears, you should observe caramelization and deep color on the pears, if this has not developed, allow them to cook a few minutes longer.
- Once all pears have been turned, allow to cook for 5 minutes more. Depending on how dark your caramel is getting, you may want to reduce your heat to medium so as not to burn the caramel at this point. A deep dark brown caramel is delicious, burnt caramel tastes acrid. Watch it carefully and remove the pan from heat if the caramel begins to burn or smoke.
- Grease a baking dish (butter or cooking spray work well) and pour in bread pudding mixture. Press the mixture down with a spatula to ensure that it is relatively even.
- Distribute the caramelized pears on top of raw bread pudding mixture. Add salt to remaining caramel mixture in pan and pour caramel sauce over the pears and bread pudding.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the custard is set and cooked through. Cool for 10 minutes before eating. This dish reheats well for up to 2 days.