Tiramisu is a dessert that I often bake for parties and other occasions where I need a dessert that can serve a crowd. Not only is it delicious, the layered espresso and cream pudding can be prepared in advance, so there is no need to rush around at the last minute. This Tiramisu Bread Pudding is a twist on the classic Italian favorite that captures all the flavors of the original in a “comfort food” format.
As is the case with most bread puddings, this one starts out with quite a lot of cubed bread. You’re going to need about a half a loaf of white bread, challah or brioche. Brioche is always a good choice for bread pudding because it is so rich, giving the pudding an even more indulgent base, but white bread is a solid option if that is what you have in the kitchen. If you happen to have some ladyfingers – the light sponge cakes that make up the layers in a traditional tiramisu – you can substitute some of the bread cubes for them to being in a little extra authenticity. I prefer the softer ladyfingers, but if your store only stocks the crisp variety, simply increase the amount by an extra 1/4 cup or so.
The custard base for the bread pudding is flavored with instant espresso, coffee liqueur and vanilla. Instant espresso brings in a little more coffee flavor than regular instant coffee does, which is nice in a dessert that is supposed to be a “pick-me-up.” You can substitute a packet of Starbucks Via or a 1 1/2 tbsp instant coffee, but instant espresso is easier to find in grocery stores than it used to be and is a great ingredient to keep on hand.
This pudding is topped with a mascarpone whipped cream that adds some contrasting texture to the dish, making it feel lighter and providing a nice balance to all that coffee flavor. The whipped cream is made simply by folding some lightly sweetened mascarpone into whipped cream and spreading it on top of the bread pudding after it has chilled. The dish should be dusted with a layer of cocoa powder before serving. It should be prepared the day before you intend to serve it, or at least early in the day so that it has time to chill completely before slicing it up.
Tiramisu Bread Pudding
1/4 cup coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua
4 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp instant espresso granules
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups milk (whole or lowfat)
approx 6 cups cubed bread (preferably challah or brioche), about 1/2 large loaf
or 5 cups bread + 1 cup cubed ladyfingers
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×9-inch baking pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together coffee liqueur eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, instant espresso and salt until ingredients are well combined and mixture is frothy. Whisk in milk
Place the bread cubes 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 to make 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. Allow the pudding to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until completely chilled.
Once the pudding is cold, beat together confectioners’ sugar and mascarpone cheese in a large bowl until well-combined.
In a medium bowl, beat heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold heavy cream into the mascarpone cheese mixture and spread on top of the chilled bread pudding. Dust generously with cocoa powder before serving.