Chef Collaboration Makes a Better Bread Pudding Using Georgia Pecans
Are you looking for a better outcome or an improved version for your bread pudding?
Well I’ve got one…
Bread Pudding was one of the first special dishes I cooked in the early days of lockdown. Incidentally, I didn’t know it was the early days of lockdown, but we happened to have some leftover croissant and brioche that was itching to be useful. So, I made my first homemade bread pudding with that nearly stale bread.
It was ironic that I had never made bread pudding since the very first food related event we produced as a company was the “Bread Pudding Throwdown.” It was held in 2012; eighteen restaurant chefs competed for the title of Best Bread Pudding in our Jackson, Mississippi venue to a sold out crowd of several hundred “judges.” To this day, with dozens of food events now under our belt, that Bread Pudding Throwdown remains one of my favorite memories.
There’s something about making bread pudding to just the right density – without it getting dry – that’s really the sweet spot for the perfect bread pudding. There’s also an ingredient that I found made the dish go right over the top into mouth-watering territory. That ingredient is toasted Georgia pecans, both in the bread and also as a sweet textured topping.
I went on to make several bread puddings during my early days of the pandemic, and croissants and brioche were regularly added to my list of “essential grocery items” to this end. Fast forward a few months while I was on a duck hunting trip in the Mississippi Delta. I ate some leftover croissants, and the bread pudding urge came on strong. So, I stopped by Delta Meat Market and asked my friend Chef Cole Ellis for some day old bread. Cole only had fresh bread to offer me that day, but I dried it out in the oven a touch before folding it into some heavy cream, eggs, vanilla, and milk. I beat those custard ingredients like it stole something. I watched with glee as the corners and edges turned golden brown, and as I pulled it out of the oven I thought, “This may be my best bread pudding ever.”
Twenty seconds later… my hopes and dreams sank like the middle of that bread pudding. I mean, it still tasted just fine, and it certainly didn’t go to waste. But I knew then that I should go back to the drawing board and accept expert advice on how to make a bread pudding that holds its “fluff” and tastes delicious. I also aspired to make a “classier” bread pudding: one that could be served in a 5-star resort.
So, I called Chef Brittany Garrigus-Cheatham, one of my many pastry-chef-friends-on-speed-dial. She had a few suggestions, and so I present to you, the collaborative efforts of YEARS of eating bread pudding, some trial and error and a lot of help from one of our chef friends.
The very BEST way to make Bread Pudding that looks and tastes amazing.
- Make your bread puddings in individual servings. This allows for a more uniform and snazzy presentation.
- Use ramekins or muffin tins which provide standard sizing for baking and help insure a consistently beautiful outcome.
- Only use Georgia Pecans – they provide superior taste and texture, hands down.
Recipe: Georgia Pecan Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
BREAD PUDDING INGREDIENTS
3 cups of cubed dried or day-old bread (If you didn’t plan ahead, just stick fresh bread in the oven as it’s preheating for 2-4 minutes and cook out some of the moisture.)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup cream
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 cup Georgia Pecan medium pieces
- Beat the eggs well, and then mix in the milk, cream and vanilla.
2. Butter the edges of ramekins or muffin pan. Small cast iron skillets also work well.
3. Toss 1/2 of the pecans, bread and liquid in a bowl and mix it. Don’t over do it! You want the bread to soak up the liquid without getting mushed together.
4. Fill the baking pan, skill, ramekins or muffin tins to level. Bake at 350 until peaks are golden brown (30-45 minutes depending on container).
5. Can be served immediately or refrigerated to serve later.
BOURBON SAUCE INGREDIENTS
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup good bourbon (optional)
Remaining pecans from main recipe
BOURBON SAUCE INSTRUCTIONS
- Whisk together brown sugar and butter in sauce pan until it turns golden brown. Then add cream and continue whisking until blended.
2. Optional: Add bourbon to saucepan and cook for 3-5 minutes on medium heat until the alcohol cooks out, stirring constantly.
3. Using a skillet, gently toast the pecans for 3-5 minutes until they are golden brown or you can smell the nutty aroma from the natural oils that are releasing. Be careful not to burn them! Sprinkle pecans with kosher salt to taste.
Either put sauce on individual servings or the entire pan if you use a larger pan (simpler, but less consistent results). Top with toasted pecans.
I recommend serving your bread pudding warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.
Looking for other ways to use Georgia Pecans? We love this recipe from Chef Nealy Frentz at Lola Restaurant in Covington, Louisiana for Bacon Dark Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pies.