Because we'd already purchased what we needed to make the dessert, we used a friend's coming over for dinner as an excuse (as if we needed one) to make this festive-looking dessert.
We just love a bread pudding. A basic bread pudding is incredibly simple -- you essentially just throw together some bread, some milk, and whatever flavors you like and bake it in a water bath for 45 minutes. You've barely lifted a finger, but you end up with these warm, cozy little bowls of pure comfort.
One of our favorites is a chocolate banana bread pudding. It's delicious, and so easy and hands-off. The hardest part is slicing up a banana.
This recipe, though, is nowhere near as simple. First, you make a cranberry syrup. Then you cut the slices of bread into rounds so as to fit the ramekins you're using. The bread is placed in the ramekins and then topped with apricot preserves, cinnamon and nutmeg, and then topped with cranberries. Then you repeat the entire process, creating a nice layering effect.
Once your ramekins are full, a you make a custard and pour it into each ramekin. The mixture then sits for 15 minutes to an hour prior to baking for 45 minutes. After cooling a bit, the puddings are then freed from the ramekins and plated.
Here's where we made a big change to the recipe -- we added a drizzle of chocolate to each pudding after it was plated.
The results? Zach loved it and thought it was both festive and delicious. Clay didn't like it as much and was very glad that it hadn't made it to the Thanksgiving table. The cranberries were a bit tart for his taste.
We were both glad we had added to the chocolate -- it made a decent dessert far better.
The nice part of this recipe is that you end up with gorgeous individual little jewel boxes of dessert. The presentation really is impressive.
But all that precise cutting, and the lining with parchment, and the cooling, and the popping out of the ramekins? It's just not what we're looking for when we make a bread pudding.
* 1 cup sugar, divided
* 1/2 cup organic frozen cranberry juice cocktail concentrate, thawed
* 1/2 cup orange juice
* 2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
* 3 cups cranberries (about 12 ounces), unthawed if frozen
* Nonstick vegetable oil spray
* 12 slices white sandwich bread
* 1/4 cup apricot preserves
* Ground cinnamon
* Freshly grated nutmeg
* 4 large eggs
* 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
* 2 cups heavy whipping cream
Bring 1/2 cup sugar, cranberry juice concentrate, orange juice, and grated orange peel to boil in heavy large saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Mix in cranberries; return to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; gently simmer 3 minutes (cranberries should not break). Pour cranberry mixture into strainer set over bowl and drain. Return syrup to same pan. Boil until very thick and reduced to generous 1/2 cup, about 7 minutes. Fold berries into syrup. Cool to room temperature. DO AHEAD Can be made 4 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.
Spray six 1- to 1 1/4-cup ramekins with nonstick spray. Line bottom of each with round of parchment paper. Cut round from each bread slice to fit bottom of ramekin. Spread each bread round with 1 teaspoon preserves, then sprinkle with cinnamon and grating of nutmeg.
Spoon 1 tablespoon cranberries (with as little syrup as possible) into each ramekin. Top with 1 bread round, preserves side down. Repeat 1 time with berries and bread rounds. Reserve berry syrup.
Whisk eggs, liqueur, vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in medium bowl until well blended. Add cream and stir until sugar dissolves. Pour custard, 1/4 cup at a time, over bread in each ramekin (generous 1/2 cup in each). Let stand at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour, occasionally pressing bread to submerge.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place puddings in 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Add enough lukewarm water to pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake until puffed and firm to touch, about 45 minutes. Remove from water. Let cool 10 minutes. Using small sharp knife, cut around each. Turn out onto plate; peel off paper. Spoon some reserved syrup over. Serve warm.