It’s so strange that my posts have leaned to the sweet rather than the savory. I have done much more cooking of dinner than of dessert over the last few years. Nevertheless, the last thing I made was another dessert, and of the kind that I typically lean towards, involving no mixing, no rolling … no dough, essentially. It’s Caramel Croissant Bread Pudding, and it is fairly heavily adapted from Nigella Lawson.
By way of background, I *love* bread pudding, but I *hate* anything that tastes eggy. The first time I ever made bread pudding, I did it from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that calls for 9 egg yolks, and no whites, which they helpfully explained eliminates all eggy taste. And they were right. So, carrying that forward, I made similar adaptations to Nigella’s recipe. The original called for two eggs, which I swapped out for four yolks, per an equivalency found on the internet. I also swapped out whiskey for Bailey’s, just because that’s what I had on hand, and added some vanilla extract at the exhortations of her commenters.
This dessert serves 2 — or, one, if you live alone and like leftovers. It tasted just as good the next night. I cooked it up right in my Fiestaware soup bowl, as I don’t have gratin dishes, which would also work nicely.
- 2 stale croissants
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons Bailey’s
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup skim milk (whole would work too, of course)
- 4 large egg yolks, beaten*
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Tear the croissants into pieces and put in a small oven-safe dish that can hold about 2 cups.
3. Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, and mix to dissolve the sugar. Turn the burner to medium or high heat. Make caramel by letting the mixture bubble until it turns a deep amber color. Nigella suggested this would take 3-5 minutes, but not to remove it from the heat too soon. This took me a good 8 minutes, and it still wasn’t all that dark. Also, I used a nonstick pot for this, which I think turned out to be a good thing.
4. Take the pan off the heat and add the cream very slowly. The mixture will sputter, and perhaps “seize up”, meaning the sugar will re-solidify. Keep stirring and try not to get splattered (an overly large pot helps with this too). Add the vanilla, Baileys and milk, again, very slowly. If despite all precautions, it does seize up — and that’s what happened to me — put it back over low heat and keep whisking until the sugar melts again. This seemed to work just fine. Take it back off the heat, let it cool a little bit, and whisk in the yolks. It may be worth putting a bit of the mixture in with the eggs first, to temper them, before adding the eggs. In any event, do it slowly and keep whisking — we don’t want scrambled eggs in the bread pudding!
5. Strain the mixture through a sieve.** Then pour over the croissants and leave to steep for 10 minutes.
6. Place in the preheated oven on a sheet pan (makes it easier to pull out of the oven later) for 20 minutes. Or, if you are pregnant and/or neurotic, until the temperature at the center of the bread pudding reaches 170 degrees F.
* You know how you are always reading that you should “save [egg whites, leek leaves, chicken bones, etc.] for another use”? I almost never do that. But in the interest of first-hand reporting for the benefit of my readers, I decided to freeze the egg whites. This, in theory, would also allow me to make angel food cupcakes one day without buying more eggs, which I tend not to keep in the house, as I use them for recipes only (as opposed to just making eggs for breakfast).
This process was more, um, interesting, than I’d hoped. My freezer has an ice maker, which is used only for purposes of shaking up mixed drinks, as I don’t generally like drinks with ice. I did keep some old ice trays, so after I finished freaking out about potentially having salmonella all over my hands and countertops after I separated the eggs, I poured the egg whites into an ice tray. It turned out that each cube held about half an egg white.
I left it overnight on a flat surface in my freezer. The next day, I went to pop them out and put them in a labeled ziptop bag. Friends, it turns out that freezers come with ice makers for a reason. Ice trays are so totally 20th century technology! The tray would not release my egg white ice cubes! Remembering from my childhood, I ran some hot water on the bottom of the tray, and then they did come out, slightly melted. Salmonella again! Drats! For some reason, I popped them out onto paper towels, which then stuck to the slightly softened cubes. Oh, joy. I ended up tossing two of the cubes when I couldn’t get the paper towels off, but it did later occur to me that I could have simply strained out the paper after they were defrosted. In the end, I have the equivalent of three large frozen egg whites, which I can use later, assuming I even remember I have them and use them “in time”. Thus is my problem with freezing these things. You have to remember to use them. Maybe I should keep a freezer inventory in Evernote …
** Straining the mixture is not required by the recipe, which I believe would be a little fussy for Nigella. As mentioned earlier, I, however, hate the taste of eggs, and really did not want any scrambled eggs in my bread pudding. I didn’t see any lumps, but it was easy enough to pour it through a small strainer, and I recommend doing so, because look what I found …