The idea of cleaning up bits and pieces, odds and ends is a great one, in theory. I somehow manage to add to the leftovers. In this case I did use the bread I had from this recipe, but now I also have almond paste and egg whites lying around. Not that I really complain, because I love finding good recipes to use them. It´s just that I never really do what I set out to in the first place. Well, they say one should let life unfold (by the way, who is the they that´s always referred to in these cases? Isn´t it great how that phrase just makes us unaccountable for the results of our doings?). So, in the kitchen, I do just that. It tends to unfold in piles and bags and containers of so many things.
So today we have a sweet and pretty sophisticated bread pudding, courtesy of David Levobitz, a great dessert chef. I bought his book because of this cake, and I just realized it´s the only one I ever made. Granted, I´ve made it many times. His recipes so far are great, easy, perfect for dessert and worth the time spent in the kitchen.
Here the easy comes after you have the bread and the almond paste. About the latter, it´s always good to have this long-lasting paste in the fridge if you like almonds. There are so many things to add it to. The custard is like an orange crème anglaise. And I might ask, again, who doesn´t like this sauce? A crazy person. It goes with sooo many desserts and it can be made in sooo many flavors.
So we have the bread slathered with almond paste and the orange custard. There´s no way that these two combined can ever deliver a bad result. Of course they don´t; I wouldn´t still be writing had that been the case.
I made mine in a fairly deep, round dish. So I ended up with a lovely pool of custard-y sauce in the bottom of the pudding (it all sounds so very British). Sweet and creamy. My only change next time will be to cut a bit on the sugar in the almond paste, maybe just process the egg white with the almond flour, and then broil it in the top rack of the oven for a minute after the bread pudding is done, so the sugar on top caramelizes and the spoon goes crashing into the pudding. So I will have the very crunchy, the very creamy and the not-so-very sweet. Heaven.
ORANGE ALMOND BREAD PUDDING
from Room for Dessert, by David Lebovitz
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
Zest of 4 oranges, peeled or grated
½ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top
6 egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 Tbs orange liqueur (I used Grand Marnier)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg white, at room tº
7 oz. (200g) almond paste (see recipe here)
1 pound (450g) of firm white bread, crusts removed and sliced
To make orange custard: Warm together milk, cream, orange zest and sugar. Remove from heat, cover and let infuse 1 hour.
Gently beat the egg yolks and whisk a small amount of the warm milk mixture into them. Whisk remaining milk, liqueur, extracts and cinnamon, and strain into a pitcher or bowl and discard orange zest. Refrigerate the custard while assembling the pudding.
Butter a 2-quart baking dish or soufflé mold.
Beat together egg white and almond paste (I used the processor) until smooth. Spread a spoonful of almond paste over one side of each bread slice.
Layer the bread slices in the baking dish, almond paste side down. If you are using a round dish, first cut the slices in half diagonally, into triangles (I didn´t), so you can arrange them in pinwheel pattern.
Pour custard over the bread and press the bread down gently, so the top layer will absorb the custard. For the bread to become completely saturated, cover and refrigerate it for an hour or as long as overnight, pressing down the bread from time to time.
Preheat oven to 350º.
Sprinkle the top of pudding liberally with sugar and bake, in a water bath, until the bread pudding is puffed in the center and the top has a rich golden color, about 1 hour.