Friday, September 26, 2008

Pumpkin Season Begins

There's something kind of perfect about pumpkin. Not only is it good for you (it is, for serious), when paired with the classic spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, it immediately evokes this feeling of warmth, familiarity and family. It might solely be an American thing because the traditional pumpkin pie is mandatory at Thanksgiving dinner every November, every year, without fail. Pumpkin then becomes this symbol of tradition and comfort. That flush of happiness that pumpkin flavors provoke is genuine and impossible to manufacture. It's home.

Therefore, I'm always eager to get going on the pumpkin train when fall rolls around. August is always a little too soon (the summer clings on!), September is good but October is GREAT. November, of course, is virtually Pumpkin Month, what with Thanksgiving and all. Last year I had great plans and then fell short on nearly all of them. I ended up only making pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and a pumpkin bread that wasn't fantastic (so it never got posted). This year, I am not falling down on the job. I have at least three more pumpkin-centric recipes that I WILL be making over the next two months. But first, there is bread pudding:

I think I can safely put bread pudding up there as one of my favorite things ever. I've made three different kinds now and each one has been delish. I found this recipe on and adapted it for individual servings (the original is for an 11x7 pan) and, again, I used the plain hoagie bread instead of the "egg bread" that's called for. The beauty of bread pudding seems to be how versatile it is. I'm sure an egg bread such as Challah would have been just as good. I also played it safe because I was changing up the recipe and baked the ramekins in a water bath, lowered the temperature and cut the bake time virtually in half. Smaller portions bake faster and all. The water bath may be unnecessary so exclude at your own risk!

Then there's the caramel sauce that goes along. I'll admit this seemed a little unnecessary once you taste the finished product. Pumpkin is a strong enough flavor with it's spices to stand on its own; you don't need caramel taking anything away from that perfect combination. Unless you're a stickler for decoration, I'd skip it. It looks like it enhances the dish, but it doesn't really. A dollop of whipped cream is all you need to go with pumpkin goodness. I'm seriously beginning to love the consistency of bread pudding and this one came out lovely!

Adapted from Bon App├ętit

Makes about 8-9 individual ramekins

2 cups half and half
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 cups 1/2-inch cubes bread (about 10-ounces)

Optional Caramel Sauce

1 1/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream

For bread pudding: Preheat oven to 330°F.

Whisk half and half, pumpkin, dark brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and vanilla extract in large bowl to blend. Fold in bread cubes. Let stand 15 minutes.

Transfer mixture to 8 ramekins. Set in a large pan and fill halfway up ramekins with boiling water. Bake pumpkin bread pudding until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare caramel sauce: Whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.

Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream and drizzle with caramel sauce.


Megan said...

Ahh, your killing me. I love pumpkin just as much as chocolate and I love bread pudding. Now I dont know which to make. They are both calling me. :)

Grace said...

pumpkin's popping up all over the place, and this is definitely one of the best uses for it that i've seen. oh, and in my world, caramel sauce is in no way optional. :)

Katie said...

This looks divine. I love pumpkin too, it brings up images of autumn

Lady said...

I am gonna try this recipe out. My mouth just fell apart looking at this! Thank you for posting again :) I've been reading your blog for awhile now and decided to be a following reader :)