I have an issue with textures, which is why I have never tried bread pudding until recently. Bread is for sandwiches or toast. Or, so I thought.
A trip to the buffet changed my mind. They had a slight menu change, and replaced my beloved banana cream dream with bread pudding. "Oh yuck" I thought, but took a spoonful to try anyways. Oh my goodness gracious!!! I waited 30 *mutter, mutter* some-odd years to try this stuff?! Why am I such a fool? The crust on top was nice and dense, and the insides were so creamy and full of vanilla flavoring, yet the whole dish was so rich, which made it so sinfully delicious.
When I started to talk to my Aunt J. about Easter dinner, I knew that bread pudding had to make it onto the menu. Lucky for me, she was down with it - - and I began the search for a bread pudding recipe that would awaken our taste buds out of a sleepy winter slumber.
BANANA BREAD PUDDING WITH CARAMEL
1 jar of purchased caramel sauce
1/4 tsp kosher salt (table salt would make the dish way too salty)
8-9 slices potato sandwich bread, very lightly toasted, torn into large pieces
3 ripe bananas, mashed
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/3 cup whole milk
2 1/2 tbsp sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
To make 1 large bread pudding dessert: Spray one pyrex 8x8x2'' glass baking dish with a non-stick cooking spray, such as PAM. Pour enough caramel into the dish to coat the bottom. Arrange half of the torn bread into the baking dish. Spoon about 3 tbsp caramel sauce over bread. Spread mashed bananas over bread, then arrange second half of torn bread on top, fitting layers snugly. (Like a dessert lasagna!)
In a medium bowl, whisk together half and half, eggs, milk, salt, 1 1/2 tbsp sugar and vanilla until combined. Pour 3/4 of custard into baking dish, and let stand app. 30 minutes until the bread absorbs the prepared custard.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Pour any remaining custard onto bread mixture. Brush any exposed bread pieces with melted butter, and drizzle top with 2-3 tbsp caramel sauce. Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake bread pudding uncovered for 55-60 minutes, or until middle is set. Remove and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream and a final drizzle of caramel sauce.
To add a touch of whimsy, I also fried up a couple of plantains as a garnish - but next time I will just leave them out...bread pudding shouldn't be so fussy.
To make 8 individual portions: Butter eight 3/4-cup ramekins. Spoon 1 generous tablespoon caramel into each ramekin. Tear each bread slice into 6 squares, for 48 pieces total. Set 1 tbsp of mashed banana on each bread square. Arrange 6 banana-topped bread squares standing on edge, side by side in each prepared ramekin, fitting snugly.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, milk, 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, vanilla and salt until combined. Pour enough custard into each ramekin to reach top. Let stand until bread absorbs some of custard, about 30 minutes. Reserve any remaining custard. Meanwhile, position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Pour remaining custard into ramekins. Brush exposed bread pieces with melted butter, and drizzle with caramel sauce. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Set ramekins in large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake puddings until set and knife inserted into custard comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Remove from pan; cool.