Hell of a title, no? Wanted to make sure I got it all in there. These started their lives as a bread pudding version of flan—with plain caramel poured into the cups and the pudding mix spooned in over that. After baking, the caramel stuck to the cup; it didn’t flow nicely over the puddings and onto the plate like it does with flan. Then I thought of making a caramel sauce and much flowing ensued.
A word about caramel: Take it seriously—it can cause some of the nastiest burns in the kitchen . Use a deep, heavy saucepan, and wear an oven mitt when swirling the pan and adding the cream to be extra careful. If you make sure the sugar is dissolved before the mixture comes to a boil you will avoid turning the caramel into a crystallized mess that will take hours of soaking to get rid of. If you’re new to this, start over low heat until the sugar is dissolved, then raise the heat to medium-low or medium. Once the caramel starts to color it will go pretty quickly.
If the above scared you out of making caramel—and it shouldn’t, caramel is pretty easy to make—you can make the bread puddings without the caramel. They will still be delicious.
Makes 4 servings
For the pudding:
1/3 cup dark raisins
2 tablespoons Knob Creek or other top-notch bourbon
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 cups milk (or substitute heavy cream for up to 1 cup of the milk)
4 cups cubed (1-inch) day old French bread or challah
For the custard cups and caramel sauce:
3 tablespoons water
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
Toss the raisins with the rum in a small bowl and let them soak until they absorb the bourbon (or rum) about 30 minutes or up to one day. If you’re keeping them overnight, cover the bowl with plastic wrap so the bourbon is absorbed and not evaporated.)
Beat the sugar, eggs and egg yolks together in a medium mixing bowl until smooth. Beat the milk into the egg mixture slowly, whdisking constantly. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the soaked raisins and bread to the bowl and let stand, tossing occasionally, until the bread is soaked through.
Heat the oven to 350° F. Heat a kettle of water to a boil, then turn off the heat.
Butter four 8-ounce heatproof custard cups, soufflé dishes or ramekins. Stir the sugar and water together in a medium skillet over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and just about to boil. Don’t stir the caramel once it comes to a boil. Continue cooking, swirling the pan constantly, until the syrup darkens to a medium amber. If sugar crystals begin to form around the edges of the skillet, wash them back into the syrup with a pastry brush dipped in cool water. You will know that the caramel is about to color when the bubbles get larger and slower. When the caramel is ready, pour the cream into the pan—careful, it will bubble up pretty quickly. Stir until smooth.
Pour the caramel into the buttered cups, dividing it evenly. There will be about 3 tablespoons for each cup. Divide the bread pudding mixture among the custard cups and set the cups in a small roasting pan. Set the pan on the oven shelf and pour in enough hot water to come two-thirds of the way up the sides of the cups. Bake until set and a toothpick inserted into the center of the puddings comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
Let the puddings cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then carefully remove them from the water and let them cool to room temperature. Serve the puddings at room temperature (they’ll hold for several hours): Run a thin knife around the edges of the cups and invert the puddings onto serving plates. Let them sit a few seconds before removing the cups to allow as much of the caramel sauce as possible to flow over the puddings. There will probably be some caramel sauce and bits of pudding left in the cups, spoon them over the custard and enjoy.