This week's TWD was chosen by Elizabeth of Cake or Death?: apple-apple bread pudding. I feel like a broken record as the last two posts have had me discussing this matter, but in case you missed it, I'm not a fan of bread pudding. Something about the texture doesn't sit well with me - all too often it just seems like soggy bread, which is pretty unappealing. Nonetheless, I was confident I could find someone to take the bread pudding off of my hands if I made it this week, especially if I scaled the recipe back. My buddy Nancy suggested 1/3 of the recipe so that's what I did, baking it in a random 6.5" x 10" Le Creuset dish I found lurking in my cupboard which I'm pretty sure I've never used.
The double dose of apple in the pudding comes from caramelized apples and apple butter. I didn't have apple butter on hand and I didn't want to buy any, but luckily I had a solution. Last week my stepfather dropped by with this surprise from his brother's garden:
Pretty fantastic, right? A bit overwhelming though. Something tells me I'm going to need to try a lot of recipes to use all that rhubarb up! So, instead of apple butter, I decided to use some of my rhubarb to make a jam. It was really easy and turned out wonderfully; the jam was both sweet and tart at the same time and the consistency was perfect (though definitely a bit less thick than jam you've buy in the store)! I'll include the recipe at the end of the post for anyone who's interested.
Though I substituted for the apple butter, I decided I'd still use the caramelized apples in my bread pudding, mainly because baked apples are a weakness and I was really hoping their inclusion might help me to like this bread pudding. The recipe came together easily once I made the jam and caramelized the apples, but this was definitely a "fill the sink with dishes" kind of dessert. I had hoped to make brioche to use for this recipe, but I ran out of time so in the end I wound up using some rolls I found hiding in the freezer, which was awesome since I didn't have to buy bread just for this recipe and because it cleared space so I could get my ice cream canister back in there to freeze. Aside from the changes I've already mentioned, I made the recipe as written. I even baked my mini bread pudding for the full hour and 25 minutes Dorie recommends in the hopes of avoiding soggy bread pudding. In the interest of full disclosure that wasn't the only reason I kept it in there so long - the baking dish I chose was very shallow and I had a hard time figuring out when the bread pudding was done (the clean knife tip didn't really help), so I erred on the side of caution.
I let the bread pudding cool for almost 2 hours before I cut a piece. I was running out of daylight and couldn't wait any longer. The flavor of the pudding was fantastic - I really, really enjoyed it!! I wasn't sure how apples and rhubarb would pair but they were a good match. Unfortunately, I still didn't like the texture. It seemed soggy. I mentioned this on Twitter and wondered whether maybe my expectations for bread pudding were off - perhaps it's supposed to be soggy? Nancy responded to let me know that wasn't the case, that the pudding shouldn't be soggy but rather soft yet firm-ish. Of course this led me to realize that I'm not sure I know the difference between soft and soggy bread though maybe it doesn't matter as I don't think I'd like either. I should probably be happy - one less dessert to tempt me :)
Many thanks to Elizabeth for hosting this week! You can find the recipe for the bread pudding on her blog or on pages 408-409 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
1.25 pounds fresh rhubarb, sliced into 1/4-1/2-inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/6 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
Place all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the jam is thick - about 45 minutes. The jam will thicken further as it cools. This recipe yields about 1 pint (or 2 cups) of jam - store in the refrigerator.