Eggnog is a holiday tradition and, in fact, it is one of those few items that you can really only find during the holiday season (unless you make it yourself, of course). It is rich, eggy and has a unique flavor to it. Most people drink it straight, or with a bit of liquor added to it, but eggnog can be used for all kinds of other things in the kitchen. Its eggy flavor lends itself particularly well to custard-based dessert, like this bread pudding.
Bread pudding is easy to make and this one definitely has a holiday flair to it. Most bread puddings have a base made up of milk or cream. This one has a base made primarily of eggnog. The eggnog is mixed with a bit of milk and nutmeg and vanilla are added to complement the flavor of the ‘nog. I used a white sandwich type of bread because it has a very mild flavor. Challah or brioche will also work very well.
I’ve heard a bit of debate as to what the “proper” booze to add to eggnog is. Some say rum, while others prefer brandy or bourbon. I’ve always used bourbon myself, so I opted to spike my cranberries with a little bit of it for this recipe. I simply rehydrated my dried cranberries in abut 1/3 cup of bourbon by letting them soak in it for about 30 minutes (you can also zap the mixture in the microwave for a few seconds to help the process along). A lot of the liquor goes into the dried fruit, giving it a very subtle zip. If you prefer not to use alcohol, you can rehydrate the berries with the same amount of water before stirring them into the bread pudding.
The finished pudding is very Christmasy, with a wonderful flavor and aroma of vanilla and eggnog. The cranberries contrast well with the custard-soaked bread and add a nice, subtle zip of bourbon. This bread pudding is baked in a loaf pan and should be served in slices (this actually makes it much easier to portion than bread pudding baked in a big casserole dish). Let it cool completely in the pan before slicing to ensure that the pudding sets up, then reheat slices in the microwave before serving.
Eggnog Bread Pudding with Bourbon Cranberries
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or currants or raisins)
1/3 cup bourbon (or brandy)
8 cups white bread (1/2 loaf bread), cut into 1-2 inch cubes
1 cup milk
2 cups eggnog
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp additional sugar, for topping
Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan (do not flour).
In a small bowl, combine cranberries and bourbon. Let soak for 30 minutes, or cover with plastic wrap and heat in microwave for about 30 seconds (until very warm) to help berries rehydrate with bourbon. If microwaving, let mixture cool to room temperature before adding to the rest of the bread pudding mixture.
In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggnog, eggs, sugar, nutmeg and vanilla. Add bread cubes and gently fold them into the mixture until all the custard has been absorbed. Stir in cranberries and remaining bourbon (any that hasn’t been absorbed into the cranberries but is still in the dish).
Pour into prepared pan, spread into an even layer and sprinkle top of loaf with additional sugar, if desired.
Bake 50-55 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean and the top is golden brown.
Allow to cool in pan and then transfer to a plate for serving.
Serve warmed. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.