Apples are not the first fruit I think of to go into bread pudding. For some reason, things like cherries, raspberries and especially various dried fruits seem like more obvious choices to me, despite the popularity of the apple as a baking fruit. They are softer and, in the case of dried fruit, more absorbent. Both seem like better matches for a custardy and tender bread pudding than a crisp-tender baked apple. But I am not one to let minor culinary prejudices get in my way when I have an idea in my head and when the combination of bourbon and apples called to me, I decided to try them in a bread pudding together instead of going with a standby apple dessert, such as a cobbler, pie or crisp.
And I’m certainly glad I gave this particular dessert a try because it turned out better than I had hoped – and I think it converted me to someone who likes apple in bread pudding! The apples were lightly caramelized before being mixed into the custard and bread mixture that is the base of the pudding, which gave them a bit of extra time to soften up before the dessert went into the oven. The fruit ended up with that perfect crisp-tender texture that you want in a baking apple and added a nice contrast to the very soft bread pudding base.
Apple and bourbon always make a good combination – particularly when cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla are also tossed into the mix – so the flavor of this dish was delicious. I used a fairly plain and soft white bread (store bought, sandwich-sliced potato bread, to be exact) and I did not bother to “stale” my bread, since I don’t find that doing so makes a big impact on the outcome of the pudding. The dessert will be slightly more indulgent if you use a butter and/or egg rich bread, like brioche or challah. Cinnamon swirl bread would be a pretty good choice, too.
Serve warm, either plain or with ice cream. If you want to take it really over the top, though, mix up a bit of the butterscotch sauce I made and spoon it on while hot. It’s not as thick as anything you’ll find at the ice cream parlor, but the flavor is great and it really makes this dish addictive.
Apple Bourbon Bread Pudding
1 tbsp butter
2 large baking apples (I used Fuji)
4 cups cubed white bread (sandwich bread or chahhah/brioche)
2 cups milk (low fat is ok)
3 tbsp bourbon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 cup raisins or pecans
Peel and core apples. Chop apples into cubes, but precision is not required and the pieces can be fairly large.
Heat a small frying pan over medium-high heat and add apples and butter. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until apples are light golden and just barely tender. Set aside to cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8×8-inch square baking pan.
Place bread cubes in a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, brandy, sugars, eggs, vanilla and spices. Pour onto bread cubes along with apples and raisins (or pecans, if using). Stir gently with a spatula to wet mixture and let stand for about 10 minutes. Pour into prepared pan, spread evenly.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted into the center of the pudding comes out clean (a couple of crumbs are ok).
Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.
Serves 8 or 9.
cook apples with butter for about 5 minutes, until golden and tender.
Brandy Butterscotch Sauce
I regularly make this sauce with brandy, but it works just as well with bourbon. Take your pick and pour it on generously over the pudding.
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp brandy or bourbon
1/4 cup butter
1/8 tsp salt
Combine all ingredients. Cook in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture just comes to a good simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4-5 more minutes, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Transfer to a heat-proof container, cover and cool slightly before serving. Sauce will thicken a bit as it cools.
Makes a little over 1 cup.