Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rainy Day Pudding

Last week my mother came home with a little brown box of leftover pudding. She had ordered it from a restaurant in Sacramento's Midtown called the Magpie Cafe, and I got to eat the rest! It was a straightforward pudding doused in a healthy ooze of warm persimmon caramel sauce. Memory ignited.

The first time I encountered bread pudding was when my Nana made it with hard sauce. By the time I had the sense to get the recipe, she was making it in the microwave, and I was as clueless about cooking as I am still about, say, underwater welding, so I never made it. No offense to the world of microwaves, but I am both a romantic and a purist and if there is a way for me to cook something a little more traditionally, I'm usually up for the task. Anyway, my mother swears that there was no microwave in the beginning when she was growing up, so there had to be another way!

OK, I realize this looks not so pretty. I couldn't get a shot
that made it look like it's yummy at just trust me here.

How could I have lived without it for so long? Desserts were usually ice cream or cookies, devils food cake or banana cream pie--all lovely for the most part, but a warm dessert on a cold day is more than lovely, it is comforting.

It only took me fifteen years to come back to the idea. I have made savory puddings often enough, and I've tinkered with other family recipes that called for things like microwave-cooking, or cake mix, or Velveeta and they weren't too far off the originals, but the sweeter side of pudding always seemed an insurmountable and overwhelming option.

I must have crossed some threshold because the moment I tasted the Magpie Pudding, I was already planning how to make it. And I just so happened to have a couple of frozen persimmons from my sister's tree, just waiting to be made into something delectable.

Bread Pudding with Persimmon Caramel Sauce

Careful, this is a filling dessert! I confess, I ate it yesterday for breakfast, caramel sauce and all, with a sliced banana. Very nice: warm, soft, sweet, buttery, with the spicy fragrance of persimmon. Serve it warm. Eat it with a blanket around your shoulders and a cup of unsweetened black tea within reach. I leave a wide option for the bread...most recipes call for the lesser amount, more pudding, less bread, but I had a whole baguette to use, and it was pretty close to the eight cup mark, and it turned out fabulous.

For the Pudding:
3 cups milk or cream, or a combination
3 eggs
4-8 cups ripped bread
1/3 cup brown sugar (if using sweet bread, cut sugar in half)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch or two of cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat milk/cream in a saucepan just until a film covers the top. Cool to lukewarm.

Beat eggs, vanilla, sugar, salt, and spices for a minute until fluffy, then slowly add the milk.

Put ripped bread into a buttered 2 quart casserole dish. Pour over the eggy milk mixture and push around the bread until the liquid is soaked in and well distributed.

Bake for about 40 minutes, uncovered, or until puffed and golden.

For the sauce:

1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
three finger pinch of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 medium sized soft and oozy Hachiya persimmons, about 1 1/2 cups

Have all ingredients ready beforehand, including having appropriate clothing attire, a long utensil for stirring, and cold water nearby. Sugar burns are awful--do not make caramel when groggy, drunk, hungover, or around small children. Warning! Burning hazard!

Now, heat sugar in a large saucepan (mixture bubbles up and can boil over if the pan is not sufficiently large). Don't be tempted to stir too much. Barely keep the sugar from burning by gently pushing around the sugar.

When the sugar has caramelized to a dark amber, add the butter immediately and whisk until completely melted. The mix will bubble up for a moment. When it has melted, turn off the heat (take the pan off the heat if you have an electric burner), wait a few seconds and then whisk in the cream, a little at a time at first, as it bubbles up quite a bit, and then more and more. Add vanilla, spices, salt, and persimmon puree. Let cool until not too hot and either serve fresh over pudding (or ice cream or oatmeal, or plain yogurt) or transfer to a jar to cool. Refrigerate until ready to use. Warm before serving.



  1. I love bread pudding! I want to try this one.

  2. I remember bread pudding from when I was a child and my grandmother made it...I was so pleased to see your recipe, Amanda! I made some this afternoon...and though I didn't have any persimmons to make the sauce, it was just wonderful without any sauce at all! Thank you!