If you recall, I made brioche buns and cut up most of them to put in the freezer for a later bread pudding. That day is here. It’s hard to hold off until Thanksgiving to make a pumpkin dessert, but I think it’s far enough away that this dish won’t interfere with our anticipation of that pie. This is a hearty pudding with the addition of pumpkin, and just right for this first day of November, when we are seeing a few snowflakes among the fall leaves.
I found a number of recipes and worked up a formula of 2 eggs, 2 cups half and half, and 1 can of pumpkin to 6 cups of bread cubes, maybe 8. Some use combinations of milk and cream in different ratios, but 2 cups of half and half seems the easier route. I generally use half and half in my custard pie (more about that on New Year’s) and a bread pudding is a custard at heart. Then everything else is negotiable—brown sugar, maybe some white sugar, cinnamon or other pumpkin spices, vanilla. There are recipes that want to serve it with a caramel-type sauce, and I give you that option, but I think whipped cream is enough if you want to highlight every bit of that pumpkin flavor. I even found recipes that use pumpkin bread, but that seems too heavy to me, and not the kind of bread that I would want in a pudding.
Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Preheat oven to 350°; butter a 2 quart baking dish
6-8 cups cubed brioche (it’s hard to measure bread cubes, but you want to fill your baking dish to just below the rim to prevent burning)
2 cups half and half
2 large eggs
1 15 oz. can pumpkin (not pie mix)—if you want a lighter custard, you can cut the amount of pumpkin by up to half
1/2 cup (generous) brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon (generous) cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (you could even put a nut streusel on top)
- Spread out bread cubes in buttered dish. A more decadent recipe might drizzle some melted butter over the cubes.
- Combine the rest of the custard ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk or mixer. Pour over bread, carefully covering all the pieces.
- Sprinkle nuts over top.
- Bake for about 45 minutes, checking after 30 minutes to see if it looks mostly done in the center. Remember that this is a custard and you don’t want to overcook it and have it turn watery after serving. Custard pies that leach water have been overcooked. The dish will continue to cook the custard after removing from oven, so don’t let it go too long. I took mine out after 40 minutes while it showed just a little wetness in the center. While sitting out of the oven, it cracked down the center as it continued to set. A custard pie would not take as long, but neither would it have soaked bread cubes in it that need to be cooked.
- Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or ice cream, or with a caramel sauce (below), or have it all, I guess.
Quick Caramel Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter
pinch-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (the bigger amount makes more of a salty caramel)
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Melt the butter, brown sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until warm and the sugar begins to dissolve.
- Slowly pour in the half and half, stirring until combined.
- Continue stirring over low heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the sugar is completely dissolved. The mixture will boil and foam—just keep stirring. Drop a small amount on a clean spoon to check for any sugar granules, if you are unsure.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Chill until ready to use, although you can certainly serve it warm, but not right off the stove.