To some, an old-fashioned bread pudding may not seem special enough to serve guests at a festive holiday meal. But they haven’t tasted THIS delicious bread pudding. Admittedly, it’s still a simple dessert, but with the addition of fresh cranberries and fresh pears, spiced to the max and sweetened just right to take the tart edge off the cranberries, it will taste just as elegant as any fussy dessert.
Add a ladle full of rich, creamy Crème Anglaise to each serving and who wouldn’t love this dessert that’s a bit old-fashioned, but never outdated.
And with plenty of servings for a large gathering, this colorful, homespun dessert delivers pleasing bursts of juicy, divinely sweet and tart flavors with each delicious spoonful. Credit the blend of tasty fruits that are so special to this cold-weather season. Many people think of bread pudding as comfort food–I call it just plain delicious! And it just so happens to be one of the tasty recipes in my Vegan for the Holidays cookbook, a cookbook packed with autumn and winter recipes perfect to carry you through the whole holiday season.
This dessert is a good keeper, so you can actually prepare it as much as two days ahead and keep it refrigerated until shortly before you’re ready to serve.
To spoil your guests completely, bring the bread pudding to room temperature and gently warm in a 350-degree F. oven for about 15 minutes. Warming the bread pudding has a magical way of elevating the fruity flavors.
If you take the bread pudding directly from the refrigerator, put it in a cold oven. Set the temperature at 350 degrees F. and check the pudding in 15 to 20 minutes to see if it’s gently warmed through. ALTERNATIVELY, you can simply serve the desert at room temperature.
Yield: 10 to 12 servings
3/4 cup whole blanched hazelnuts or slivered almonds (See How to Blanch Hazelnuts)
8 slices whole wheat bread
1 pound fresh cranberries
3 large Bosc or Anjou pears, cored, and sliced
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup vanilla or plain soymilk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups unsweetened soymilk
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
Fresh mint sprigs
TO MAKE THE BREAD PUDDING, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and lightly oil a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
Pour the hazelnuts into a heavy-duty ziplock bag, place the bag on a cutting board, and use a hammer to gently break them into coarse pieces. Set aside. If using slivered almonds, measure them and set aside.
Break the bread into 1-inch pieces and put them in a very large bowl. Add the cranberries and pears.
Combine the brown sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes to create a syrup. Let cool and add it to the bread mixture.
Add the raisins, soymilk, lemon juice, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well.
Spoon the bread mixture into the prepared baking pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and stir the mixture to break up the cranberries. Sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts, cover with the foil, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.
TO MAKE THE CRÈME ANGLAISE, combine the soymilk, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and decrease the heat to medium.
Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or cup and stir until smooth. Stir the paste into the simmering soymilk mixture a little at a time, stirring constantly for 1 minute, or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours to firm. Stir gently before using. Tightly covered and refrigerated, Crème Anglaise will keep for 5 days. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.
TO SERVE, spoon the bread pudding into dessert dishes and ladle a generous spoonful of the Crème Anglaise over each serving. The finishing touch is a small sprig of mint to make it look extra special. Pass the remainder of the sauce at the table.