Bread pudding can be a surprisingly versatile dish. The combination of custard and bread is easily flavored with all kinds of ingredients. For instance, you can stir in citrus zest, dried fruit, fresh berries or even spike it with a bit of alcohol. The most popular way to dress up a bread pudding, though, is with a strongly flavored sauce and my bread pudding here is no exception. This Vanilla Bread Pudding with Blackberry Sauce is a favorite dessert to make during the summer when berries are in season and
This bread pudding is a little bit lighter than the bread pudding that you might find in a restaurant. This is primarily because I make it with milk (and you can use whole, low fat or even skim), rather than heavy cream. The pudding still has a smooth, rich custard feel and flavor but a lightness that suits the berry sauce. I put in a generous splash of vanilla as well as a pinch of cinnamon, and also added some dried cherries for a little added texture and sweetness. The fresh berry sauce really pops with the vanilla and cinnamon.
You can also make this sauce with blueberries, raspberries or use a combination of those two fruits with the blackberries for a mixed berry sauce. I like a chunky, rustic sauce that has lots of pieces of whole berries in it, but you can purée and strain the sauce if you prefer to eliminate any seeds.
Vanilla Bread Pudding with Maple-Blackberry Sauce
5-6 cups cubed bread (preferably challah or brioche), about 1/2 large loaf
2 1/4 cups milk
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cherries
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8×8 or 9×9-inch baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until ingredients are well combined and mixture is frothy.
Place the bread cubes and dried cherries into a large bowl and pour the egg mixture over the top. Use the back of a spoon or spatula to gently press the bread down into the custard, making sure that each piece of bread gets a chance to soak up the milk mixture. Allow bread to stand for 10-15 minutes.
Pour bread cube mixture into prepared baking dish.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the pudding is set and a sharp knife inserted into the center of the pudding comes out clean.
Let the pudding cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. It can be served warm or cold.
Microwave Blackberry Sauce
2 cups fresh blackberries (or frozen)
1/4 cup agave syrup or maple syrup
1/4 cup water
2 tsp cornstarch
In a large, microwave safe bowl, combine blackberries, agave syrup, water and cornstarch and stir well. Microwave on high for 3-5 minutes, until mixture just starts to bubble. Mash firmly with a potato masher or the back of a large fork, until berries are partly pureed. Stir well, then microwave for 60 additional seconds, to allow mixture to thicken slightly.
Cool before using.