Bread pudding soothed my soul that was plagued by our winter weather.
It's a magical dish, turning leftover stale bread into something so sweet and delectable. Called "poor man's pudding," it's a good way to use up leftover loaves of French or country white bread that has a bit of texture to it. Soft, fluffy bread just will not do.
I thought bread puddings were a just a Southern thing until I did some research. Turns out just about every cuisine has developed a sweet way of using up yesterday's manna. Bread pudding is famous in New Orleans, usually made with golden raisins and smothered with a bourbon sauce.
DOUSED IN LOCAL BREW
For THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK, I found a marvelous recipe for bread pudding while visiting a brewery near the Blue Ridge Parkway at Afton, VA. Blue Mountain Brewery is a fabulous place, with great scenery and a crop of hops just out the front door. I'd never seen the tall vines growing before.
Virginia used the be the hops capitol of the New World, but these days most hops are grown in the Northwest of the country. So it's a bit unusual to find a nearby brewery that grows its own hops for fermentation.
Blue Mountain Brewery has several varieties of beer, but there's one that matches up with Bread Pudding just perfectly, at least the way co-owner Mandi Smack makes it for their tasting room. She adds chocolate chips and nuts for a crunchy topping, and soaks it all with their Evil Eight Degree, a dark, caramel and chocolaty flavored ale. I fell in love with it at first bite, and begged for the recipe.
Please note that if you cannot find that particular bottle, substitute a dark, Belgian-style ale. Make it a local brew, if possible.
Roanoke's WSLS10 noontime show, Our Blue Ridge, has invited me several times to prepare some of the recipes from THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK. It's a live show, and I get FOUR minutes to complete a dish. Four. It's been fun to do, and I love working with Natalie and Jay, the hosts, and their producer, Stephanie.
Catch my latest episode where we make this very Bread Pudding!
BREAD PUDDING WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS & ALE
vegetable oil cooking spray
2 cups sugar, turbinado or granulated
5 eggs, beaten
2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ bottle (6 ounces) Blue Mountain Brewery’s Evil 8° Belgian Double Ale
3 cups country white bread pieces, stale
½ cup chocolate chips
1 cup brown sugar
2 ounces (1/2 stick) softened butter
1 cup pecans, chopped
FOR THE EVIL 8° CARAMEL SAUCE:
1 cup sugar, turbinado or granulated
6 ounces Blue Mountain Brewery’s Evil 8° Belgian Double Ale
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, pure
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.
2. Combine the sugar, eggs and milk in a mixing bowl. Add the vanilla and Evil 8° ale.
3. Lay out the stale bread pieces in the bottom of the greased pan.
4. Pour the egg mixture over the bread pieces and let sit until most, but not all, is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
5. In a separate bowl, mix and crumble together the chocolate chips, brown sugar, butter and chopped pecans to make the topping mixture.
6. Sprinkle the topping mixture over the soaked bread pieces in the pan. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes.
7. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until nicely browned.
8. Meanwhile make the Evil 8° Caramel Sauce. In a saucepan, mix together the sugar, butter, egg and vanilla. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is melted. Add Evil 8° ale and stir.
9. Spoon warm caramel sauce over bread pudding.
YIELD: 6 to 8 Servings