I anxiously waited while peeking out the eat-in kitchen window. The drapes where brown and white and I would wrap them around my face and exhale on the window, making small moist spots, and watch them disappear. She always came to pick us up on Friday afternoons. I can’t remember a Friday in my childhood that her car didn’t climb the gravel driveway, and I didn’t bound to the back door to let her in. Grandma was taking us for a sleepover.
Our first stop would be dinner. One of our favorite places was a little green and white building in town along the route to her house. Empire Restaurant. My sister and I would fight over who got to sit by her, order soda, because we were never allowed soda otherwise, and I insisted on the fried fish with french fries. Again.
The end of dinner was always the same. “Eat more of your fish and you can have bread pudding”. “No, I said fish, not french fries. You have to eat the fish.” I would do anything for the bread pudding and she knew it.
Unfortunately, Empire closed it’s doors and it would be years before the taste of perfect bread pudding would cross my mouth again. There were glimmers of hope along the way. A Mom and Pop cafe here, a chain restaurant there. I would see it on the menu and get all giddy with the excitement, then the let-down would come. Mushy, tasteless, drowned in too much sauce. It was never the same.
One day R & S called and invited us out to a neighborhood pub. We had been there before and I had seen the teaser of bread pudding on the menu, but had lost all hope and declined to order it time and time again. R & S insisted it was all that bread pudding was supposed to be, and who was I to argue – they are British after all. So, I took a chance.
The fork passed my lips and I suddenly felt like a child again, and for a moment I panicked because I hadn’t finished all my fish.
I found this recipe after our local Pub closed and I was missing this dessert. A extensive search for that recipe turned up an article written in the early nineties and there it was! I have since made a few changes, and the Pub’s other locations no longer serve it with this sauce.
1 loaf Challah bread, cubed (about 9 cups)
1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
1 can evaporated milk (12 fl. oz.)
1 1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Small Can Crushed Pineapple (8 oz, do not drain)
3 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
¾ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Combine topping in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- Reserve 2 cups of bread cubes, set aside.
- Using two baking sheets, spread remaining bread cubes in one single layer.
- Toast in oven for 15 minutes, tossing once half way through, and rotating baking sheets to opposite racks.
- Place in a large bowl, set aside to cool.
- Melt the butter and pour over bread cubes.
- In a medium bowl combine all remaining ingredients and pour over bread crumbs. Stir gently with a rubber spatula and let stand for ten minutes.
- Pour mixture into well-buttered 8”x11” baking dish.
- Spread reserved bread cubes over top, slightly pressing them in. Sprinkle sugar topping evenly over the pudding.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool for a minimum of 20 minutes before serving with Bourbon Sauce.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons bourbon
Pinch of salt
- Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat.
- Whisk in remaining ingredients.
- Simmer until thickened, whisking often, about 3 minutes.
- Cool slightly and add bourbon. Serve over warm Bread Pudding.