Last week my two wonderful sisters, who I rarely get to see, visited me and we all went out to celebrate both my and my youngest sister’s birthdays. Because we were celebrating, we chose to order a couple of desserts to share. After some intense deliberation (as you know, sweets are a serious business), we decided on the chocolate torte and a caramel apple bread pudding.
I was totally on board with the chocolate dessert, but I was somewhat less enthusiastic about the bread pudding. It’s not that I don’t like bread pudding, but rather that, when I think of a decadent treat, a dessert traditionally made from stale bread just doesn’t make the top of my hit parade. However, much to my surprise, the bread pudding was absolutely delicious. Served warm with French Vanilla ice cream, it had the ideal texture –not soggy, but not dry. And it was sweet, but not cloyingly so. We all agreed that it was the best part of our meal.
Even though the restaurant served this lovely dish in March, I tend to think of bread pudding as more of a heavier winter comfort-food dessert. But because my “puddin’ revelation” was so profound, I resolved to try to make some myself but to devise a recipe for a seasonal bread pudding more suited to Spring.
Since strawberries are in season now, I knew that I wanted to incorporate them into my recipe as a sauce. As I considered the rest of my Spring bread pudding flavor profile, I thought that orange and almond would pair well with the strawberries. I decided that orange zest and almond extract would flavor the pudding and toasted sliced almonds would provide additional almond flavor, as well as some texture.
Thinking more about almonds, as a Pittsburgher born and raised, I couldn’t help think about Pittsburgh’s Prantl’s Bakery iconic Burnt Almond Torte, which The Huffington Post declared to be “probably the BEST cake in America” (if you want to check it out, they deliver). It’s a simple but heavenly white cake filled with a delectable custard and iced with a light as air buttercream frosting. However, in my opinion, what makes the torte all that it is, are the toasted sugared almonds (they are not really burnt) that create a crunchy sweet crust all over the frosting.
So in a nod to my hometown, I decided that my Spring bread pudding would be an homage to Prantl’s famous torte. If the response from my family is any indication, it turned out pretty well. I hope you enjoy it!
Burnt Almond & Orange Bread Pudding With Balsamic Strawberry Sauce
Balsamic Strawberry Sauce
- 1 lb. fresh strawberries sliced
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 Tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar
- 1/8 cup coarse baker's sugar
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 1 loaf Challah or Brioche bread, sliced into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- zest of 1 large orange
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. almond extract
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 extra large eggs
Balsamic Strawberry Sauce
Prepare the Strawberry sauce first so that the strawberries have time to macerate in the vinegar and sugar mixture while you make the bread pudding.
Combine sliced strawberries, aged balsamic vinegar, and sugar in a bowl and set aside at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the almonds in a bowl. Add the water and coarse sugar and mix to coat the nuts.
Spread out the sugared nuts evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and toast until golden brown (about 7 min) watching closely, to assure they do not burn.
Slice bread into 1-inch pieces and place into a large bowl. Add the sugared almonds and gently stir to combine.
Place the almonds and bread in well-buttered 9" x 13" glass baking dish.
In a large bowl, mix almond milk, cream, orange zest, sugar, salt, cinnamon, vanilla and almond extract.
Add the eggs to the milk mixture and whisk together until well combined.
Pour the mixture over the bread, pressing down lightly to ensure that all the bread is saturated.
Place the baking dish in a water bath (called a bain-marie) by setting it in a large roasting pan, and then carefully filling the roaster with hot water until it is halfway up the sides of the pudding’s baking dish.
Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.
Serve warm with whipped cream and balsamic strawberry sauce.
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