Wednesday, May 26, 2010

chez panisse apricot bread pudding

Apricots are my favorite stone fruit. They remind me of the desserts my German grandma would make me as a kid. I love the acidity of them. They work well in a rich bread pudding because the acidity cuts through the creamy sweetness. I don’t peel the apricots because when you poach them the skins get really tender. I use  the seeds of a whole vanilla bean in the custard. One of the best flavor combos is apricot, orange and vanilla. Tangy, sweet and creamy!


Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes


1 cup dried apricots, sliced, or 8 fresh apricots, cut in small wedges
1-1/4 cups sugar
7 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
2 cups half-and-half or whole milk
2 cups cream
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon kirsch (cherry brandy)
4 ounces good-quality almond paste, cut in pea-size pieces, optional
About 1 pound brioche, pain-de-mie or good day-old homemade white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 5 cups)


In a small saucepan, simmer the apricots in 1 cup water and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Poach the fruit until tender, about 12 minutes for dried, 5 for fresh. Drain the fruit, saving the liquid, and set the fruit aside to cool. Return the poaching liquid to the saucepan and add the remaining 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Boil this mixture, and when it begins to brown, swirl the pan so that it caramelizes evenly. Cook to a medium amber color. Very carefully pour the hot caramel into a 2-quart gratin dish or divide it evenly among 6 small ramekins. Cool.

Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl. Slowly add 1/3 cup sugar and mix well. Whisk in the half-and-half or milk and the cream. Add the orange zest, salt, vanilla and almond extracts, nutmeg, and kirsch. Gently fold in the poached apricots; the almond paste, if using; and the bread cubes. Transfer the pudding mixture to the gratin dish or ramekins. Let rest at least 1 hour or refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Sprinkle a little sugar over the top of the pudding. Place the gratin dish or ramekins on a baking sheet to catch any overflow. Bake until nicely browned, about 55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8 servings