Follow pastry chef and cookbook author Tish Boyle through the seasons as she shares what’s in her larder during every month of the year. Right now, apples are at their best. And all year round, bread pudding is at its best. Can you see where we’re going with this?
Originally a thrifty and simple way to use up stale bread, bread pudding has evolved into a dessert sophisticated enough to be served in upscale restaurants, where it’s frequently made with brioche or croissants. This version features croissants coated with apple butter and layered with apple cubes that have been sautéed in butter and sugar. Baking the pudding in a water bath ensures a creamy texture — without it, the custard will break, and it won’t be pretty. If you don’t have time to make your own apple butter, feel free to use a high-quality jarred one.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium Granny Smith or Braeburn apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 6 tablespoons Apple butter
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 large all-butter croissants, either fresh or 1 day old
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons brandy or dark rum
For the bread pudding
Butter the interior of a shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dish (I used a 12-by-8-inch oval).
In a large skillet, heat the butter over high heat until melted and foamy. Add the apples and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the sugar on top of the apples and add 1 tablespoon of the apple butter; continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the apples are slightly tender, about 4 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool.
Combine the milk, cream, and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the mixture just begins to boil. Remove the pan from the heat.
Using a serrated knife, cut each croissant in half crosswise (as if you were going to use them for a sandwich). Spread each cut side of 2 bottom halves and 3 top halves with 1 tablespoon apple butter. Cut the remaining bottom half into 1/2-inch cubes. Arrange the apple butter–coated bottom halves of the croissants in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Scatter the croissant cubes in the empty areas of the pan. Scatter the cooked apple cubes on top of the croissants. Cut each of the croissant tops in half to make half-crescent shapes and arrange them, cut side down, over the apples.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until well blended. Remove the cinnamon stick from the warm milk mixture and gradually whisk the liquid into the egg mixture. Whisk in the vanilla and brandy. Slowly pour the liquid into the baking dish, over the croissants. Spoon the custard mixture over the croissant tops so they will be glazed when baked. Allow the unbaked pudding to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°F.
Place the pan of bread pudding into a larger pan, such as a roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan so that it comes about 1 inch up the sides of the baking dish. Cover the pan with a piece of buttered aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the pudding is just set and slightly puffed around the edges. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. Cover any leftover pudding and refrigerate for up to 5 days.