I felt downright proud making it through the last year and learning the intricacies of baking, the mother sauces derived from classic French cuisine, and even how to butcher a chicken, duck, cornish hen, or any other two-legged bird I could get my hands (or my knife, rather) on. Instead of all of those things, do you wanna know what I get most excited about? You wanna know my favoritist thing of all time to make?
Caramel. Yup. I could make it every single day and I would not be any less fascinated by it. Chris would verify that – every time I make it, I call him into the kitchen to ‘watch the magic show’. And maybe it isn’t that cool to you – but I can’t get enough of it. I love watching powdery, snow white sugar morph itself, with only heat as its’ instigator, into a smooth, creamy, golden river – a river that tastes so enchantingly exceptional I’m sure it must be an outright criminal offense to eat it in some countries.
Is it hard to make? Well, no. And yes. For the most part, you turn on the heat, sugar in pan, and watch it do its’ thing. But getting the right color may take practice – the darker it gets, the more bitter it tastes – which isn’t a bad thing, depending on what you’re making. Bitter, dark caramel is tastiest as crème caramel, but the lighter kind is my favorite.
This recipe was unequivocally meant for me, as it contains caramel, for one, and bread pudding, for two. To complete the trifecta, it definitely doesn’t hurt to add in something derived from molasses. Have I mentioned bananas yet? Oopsie – yeah, bananas are in here too. In fact, Bon Appetit described this recipe as being “bananas foster in bread pudding form”. Bon Appetit don’t lie.
Fo shizzle. The second I tasted it (let’s be real here – the second I tasted the caramel and realized that was only the drizzle), I kicked myself for holding out for so long. But this is the kind of recipe that’s meant to be shared – as much as I would have loved to eat it all by my lonesome, I also knew that wouldn’t be fair – this dish is rich, wholesome, and meant to be loved and enjoyed by many.
[Ask me again and I’ll tell you the same.]
Rum, Caramel, & Banana Bread Pudding
Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2009; serves 8
2 c powdered sugar
1 1/4 c heavy whipping cream, divided
1 T dark rum
1/4 t salt
1 T unsalted butter
7 c 3/4 inch cubes challah bread (from 1 lb loaf)
6 large eggs
3/4 c sugar
1/8 t plus 1/4 t salt
1 c heavy whipping cream
2 c whole milk (or half & half, for even richer goodness)
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 c packed dark brown sugar
3 T unsalted butter
2 T dark rum
1 T fresh lemon juice
4 medium just-ripe bananas, peeled, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/3 inch pieces
Spread powdered sugar evenly in large nonstick skillet. Cook over medium-high heat without stirring until sugar begins to melt and caramelize on bottom (sugar layer will slide when skillet is tilted), then stir until all sugar is melted and deep amber and caramel is smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 cup cream, rum, and 1/4 teaspoon salt (some clumps will form). Stir until caramel is thick and smooth, about 1 minute. Mix in remaining 1/4 cup cream. Remove from heat and add butter; stir until sauce is thick and smooth, about 1 minute. Strain sauce into small bowl. [Cool, cover, and chill. Rewarm, stirring over low heat, before using.]
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Spread bread cubes out on rimmed baking sheet. Toast until beginning to feel dry but not hard, about 7 minutes. Cool on sheet. Whisk eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Bring cream and milk to simmer in medium saucepan. Very gradually whisk cream mixture into egg mixture. Strain custard into medium bowl; mix in vanilla. Cool to lukewarm, about 30 minutes.
Whisk brown sugar and butter in large skillet over medium-high heat until smooth sauce forms, about 1 minute. Whisk in rum, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add bananas and toss just until coated, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
Lightly butter 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish (8-cup capacity). Scatter 1/3 of bread in dish. Top with half of bananas and half of syrup from skillet. Scatter half of remaining bread over. Top with remaining bananas and syrup from skillet, then remaining bread. Pour custard over. Let pudding stand 30 minutes, occasionally pressing down bread to submerge and to absorb custard.
Meanwhile, get the oven back to 350 F. Place dish with pudding in 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Add enough warm water to pan to reach halfway up sides of pudding dish. Cover baking pan with foil. Bake pudding 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until puffed and set in center, about 45 minutes longer. Remove from water bath and let stand 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with warm caramel sauce.