maple + pecan bread pudding with smoked sugar sauce

This is one dessert that has it all: eggs, butter, CREAM, sugar, booze, WHITE FLOUR. Some scary stuff. No chocolate, though. Whew.

You MUST do some sort of penance (the Catholic girl in me) for this one.  I would dole out one (power) yoga class, two spin classes and a 4 mile walk with your dog. Don't have a dog?  No matter.  Borrow one.  Oh, and a green juice. Yes, it's that bad.  BUT BUT BUT...totally worth it.  Promise.

I recently made this for a dinner party I was attending.  It's really easy to make ahead of time, sauce included.  I just popped it in my friend's oven while we were on the main course.  I brought the sauce along in a glass jar, making it super simple to warm up in the microwave.  Done.

My extra-lovely (transplanted) Southern belle hostess served up some super-mean, just-right spicy gumbo, complete with filé and flaky flaky biscuits passed around the table. This classic Louisiana-style bread pudding hit the right end-note.  Well, at least from the looks of the finger lickin' going on, this is what I concluded.

I like to use two-day old challah for my pudding but if that is too eggy/decadent for you, switch it out for some nice white bread.  You can use light brown sugar in place of the smoked but it won't be as smokey. Just sayin'.

maple + pecan bread pudding with smoked sugar sauce

5 1/2 c 1/2" challah cubes, any crust (no matter how tender) removed

2 c heavy cream

5 eggs

1/2 c smoked sugar

3/4 c maple syrup

1 t vanilla

1 medium orange, zested and juiced (you should have about 1/3 c)

2 T bourbon

1 t grated ginger

1 t cinnamon

1 c pecans, toasted and chopped

butter for the baking dish

for the sauce:

1 c smoked sugar (I am officially and utterly smitten)

3 tbsp unsalted butter

1 t smoked salt

½ cup heavy cream

You really want the bread cubes to be as uniform as possible in size for a better mouthfeel.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, heavy cream , sugar, syrup, and vanilla until the eggs are fully incorporated and the sugar has dissolved.

All the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Let the bread soak in the mixture for at least 2 hours and up to 8.

For the sauce, melt the sugar, butter and salt together in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring almost constantly.

Be patient and have faith.  This will take 5-10 minutes, depending on the level of your heat but the sugar will melt.

Be careful not to burn it.  Be extra careful to not let any spurt up and burn you.  It is seriously one of the most painful burns you can ever get.  Trust me.  Once the sugar has melted, remove the pan from the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream.

Pour the sauce in a glass container and reserve for later.

Pour the pudding mixture into a buttered 9" x 12" baking dish. Cook the pudding at 350º for about an hour, checking at about 45 minutes.  I actually cooked this one on convection at 325º in about 40 minutes, turning the oven to convection broil for the last 5 minutes to get a nicely browed crust for added texture.  I would recommend you do the same, just be careful not to burn it.  It is done when the center quickly springs back and the top have nice color.

Scoop out onto a serving dish and top with the warmed sauce.