Do you want to know what's great about bread pudding? Everything. Everything is great about bread pudding. The richness, the texture, the simplicity of flavor and the versatility. In my quest for orange recipes for my orange-themed holidays, I came across many, tried a few then made this and knew all my searching hadn't been in vain. After this, I could wipe my hands clean of Orange Christmas 2010; I'd reached the pinnacle of success.
Now, full disclosure: I LOVE bread pudding. So maybe I'm a little biased. Maybe I ate this for breakfast a few times and maybe I also forked it into my mouth, directly out of the pan, because it was so addictive and lovely and I have little self-control. I kinda had my heart set on orange/chocolate recipes and I did find one for bread pudding on Food Network's site but it wasn't popular or reviewed more than 2 or 3 times and those always give me pause. This one, on the other hand, called for almond paste and the minute I see those two words, a flashing neon sign goes off in my head. WINNER. WINNER. WINNER. How does that delicious, yet shamefully unhealthy paste taste so good? Oh right, it's shamefully unhealthy. But it was Christmas so I indulged!
This had such an amazing smell when it was baking up as well and that was a big part of my Christmas baking too. I wanted the scent of orange and cinnamon and warmth permeating the house and this was spot on! And even though it's pictured, I didn't make the caramel sauce the recipe called for. That's a store bought for plate decoration. To me, it needed absolutely nothing else. It's rich and flavorful all on its own! Don't feel the need to add more sweetness to it; let the pudding speak for itself!!
If you have any inclination toward bread pudding at all, you absolutely must try this one. ugh. I miss it like an old friend. ...And it's only been 3 weeks since I've made it. want more!
ORANGE ALMOND BREAD PUDDING
Adapted from: Sweet Pea's Kitchen
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
Grated zest of 4 oranges
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
6 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon orange flavored liqueur such as Triple Sec, Grand Marnier or Contreau
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg white, at room temperature
7 ounces almond paste, crumbled
1 loaf (1 pound) of firm-textured white bread, cut into 1/2″ slices
1. In a medium saucepan, warm milk, heavy cream, orange zest and 1/2 cup of sugar to 110 degrees; Stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for one hour.
2. After one hour, reheat the cream mixture until it’s very warm (110 degrees). In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks then gradually whisk in the warm milk-cream mixture, whisking constantly to prevent eggs from cooking. Whisk in the vanilla extract, almond extract, orange liqueur, and cinnamon. Pour mixture through a strainer into another bowl to remove orange zest. Set aside.
3. Butter an 8x8 baking dish OR a shallow 2-quart baking dish or souffle mold. (Baking time will be longer with 8x8 as it will be thicker, as pictured.)
4. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites and almond paste until smooth. Spread a spoonful of almond paste over one side of a slice of bread, then place the slice in the prepared baking dish, almond paste side down. Continue spreading paste on bread, and layering slices into the dish. Pour the milk-egg yolk mixture over the bread and gently press down, submerging the layers in the liquid.
5. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator at least an hour or overnight, pressing down occasionally to make sure the top layers of bread are soaked through.
6. Preheat oven to 350°F. If you’ve put the bread pudding in the fridge, allow it to come to room temperature before baking by placing it on the counter for at least an hour.
7. Sprinkle the top of the bread pudding liberally with sugar. Set the baking dish in a water bath by setting it in a large roasting pan, and then filling the roaster with water until it is halfway up the sides of the pudding’s baking dish.
8. Bake until pudding is puffed up in the center and the top is brown, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (Place loose aluminum foil over top if center isn't puffed; will keep top from burning.)
9. Let cool until warm. Serve warm. Optional: drizzle with caramel sauce.
Yields: 8-10 servings