Oddly, both of my parents were born on Thanksgiving, but on different days in different years so they don’t share the same birthday. This year, my mom’s birthday falls on Thanksgiving Day, and I’m always looking for something special to make her above and beyond the traditional fare. As a Thanksgiving baby, she’s partial to pumpkin desserts, but pumpkin pie seems so boring for a special birthday celebration. I’ve made the typical pumpkin crunch cake in previous years, as well as a pumpkin pie with a tasty cinnamon-walnut topping … but this year I wanted to make something that would stand out, and this pumpkin bread pudding fits the bill.
20 minutes prep time; 30 minutes-2 hours sitting time; 1 hour cooking time.
• ½ cup pecans (walnuts would substitute nicely, I bet)
• ¼ cup brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 2 teaspoons flour
• ½ teaspoon cinnamon
• ½ of a 15-oz. can of pumpkin (feed the rest of the can to your dog, if you have one. pumpkin’s good for them)
• 3 eggs
• 1 cup milk
• ½ cup heavy cream
• ½ cup brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon bourbon or vanilla
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon (if you haven’t tried Penzey’s cinnamon, order some! you’ll never go back to the grocery store stuff)
• ½ teaspoon nutmeg
• ½ loaf of plain Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (I got my bread at Crest)
• ½ stick of butter (4 tablespoons)
• ¼ cup brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons bourbon
• ¼ cup heavy cream
1. For the nut topping, put the pecans, sugar, butter, flour, and cinnamon in a small food processor and pulse until it’s chopped and well blended. Set aside.
2. Whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, milk, cream, sugar, bourbon, cinnamon, and nutmeg until it’s blended well. It will look pretty similar to pumpkin pie filling at this point.
3. Put the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and pour the pumpkin mixture on top. Stir with a large wooden spoon until the bread is coated. Cover and let the bread absorb the pumpkin mixture for 30 minutes up to 2 hours. (I went shopping at this point, then threw it in the oven when I got home.)
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes before you’re ready to put it in the oven.
5. Use a rubber spatula to scoop the mixture into a round baking dish that has a lid (I used a Pyrex casserole dish) and press it down into the dish. Top with the nut mixture. Cover the dish with its lid.
6. Place the round baking dish into a rectangular roasting pan, cake pan, or some other large, tall-sided pan and put them both in the oven. Add enough hot water to the rectangular baking dish, so that it comes up about halfway on the round baking dish.
7. Bake covered for 45 minutes, then remove the lid and bake an additional 15-20 minutes.
8. In the meantime, make the bourbon cream sauce. I’d always recommend Maker’s Mark, but any bourbon will do. On low heat, melt the butter and stir in the sugar. Stir constantly for 2-3 minutes. Add the bourbon and cream, then immediately remove from the heat. Stir another 30 seconds longer. Pour over the pudding once it comes out of the oven.
9. Please be extremely careful when removing both of the pans from the oven – it can be kinda tricky with all that hot water. Once it’s out, check the middle with a knife and make sure it’s hot in the center. If it needs a little more time, just put it back in the oven for a few minutes without the water bath.
10. Have a happy Thanksgiving!