I know I have mentioned this on an individual basis, but about two years ago all five of us heathens took a week long trip to New Orleans together (along with about 30 others). We spent five days gutting the homes of some amazing families, who had endured unbelievable turmoil in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, so they could begin rebuilding and getting their lives back together. After the work we headed for a much needed weekend with real beds, showers and some seriously good times in the French Quarter. I believe all of us went on at least one other service trip to NOLA, but that one where we were all there together stands out in my memory as the one where we did the most meaningful work and where we also had the most fun. I recall beginning our Friday night with the five of us chillin’ in a delightful window booth in the amazing club, d.b.a on Frenchman St. They have probably the greatest selection of whiskeys (along with an array of draft beers) I’ve encountered, with the addition of mellow live music to boot. We had some phenomenal food that weekend too, but nothing topped the homemade red beans and rice, jambalaya and barbecued chicken the homeowners made us during the week. With Mardi Gras approaching on Tuesday I wanted to give a little nod to the Crescent City and tried to think of a way to add a Jewish flair to a French Quarter classic. Given the propensity of deliciously trafyey pork and shellfish in NOLA cuisine this was proving to be a bit of a stretch, but once again my inspiration came from Cooks Illustrated magazine. They had an article recently which had determined that Challah makes the best bread pudding. I had found my Jewish angle and I also love bread pudding. I suspect the gene for loving bread pudding is located closely to the one that had me develop a taste for scotch and bourbon, and I can thank my dad for both. I also got to combine those two joys by adding some bourbon to the bread pudding. I’ll warn you, this recipe is not for the literal faint of heart, and Lipitor may be an advisable accompaniment with dessert, but as they say in the Big Easy … “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!”
before I get to the recipe here’s a photo from our evening at d.b.a (Gordon and I were on the other side of the booth)
Challah Bread Pudding
adapted from Cooks Illustrated
- 2 Tbs brown sugar
- 3/4 C. plus 1 Tbs granulated sugar
- 1 loaf of challah, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- 9 large egg yolks
- 4 tsp vanilla
- 2/4 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 C heavy cream
- 2 1/2 C whole milk
- 2 Tbs butter, melted
- 2/3 cups raisins (I used golden raisins, but any will work)
- 1/3 C bourbon
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Spread bread cubes out on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes tossing occasionally, until dry but not browned. Cool bread for about 15 minutes.
- In a small bowl combine raisins and bourbon. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds and set aside to cool. In another small bowl combine brown sugar with 1 Tbs granulated sugar and set aside.
- In mixer or bowl whisk yolks, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla and salt. Then whisk in cream and milk until combined then stir in the raisins and bourbon. Set aside about 2 cups of the prettier bread squares to use for a topping. Stir in remaining bread squares and pour into a 13 x 9 baking dish. Let stand about 30 minutes until bread is fully saturated by the custard.
- Dip the remaining bread cubes into melted butter and place evenly (butter side up) around the pan. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture on top.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes until custard is set and pressing the center of the pudding does not release any liquid. Allow to cool about 45 minutes and serve warm.