A couple weeks ago I hosted a gathering on Fox Island here in the Pacific Northwest with La Brea Bakery. We stayed in a cabin surrounded by lush forest, vibrant autumn-colored leaves, and a beautiful view of the sea. I was joined by Trish of Eat Your Beets, Natalie of The Modern Proper, Krissy of Cottage Farm, Shelly of Vegetarian Ventures, Sasha of Tending the Table, and Alanna of The Bojon Gourmet, and we spent the weekend making delicious foods, eating ALLLLL the breads (including this apple bread pudding!), laughing, chatting, and soaking up the beautiful fall scenery. I love being a part of gatherings like these because I get to spend time in real life with my friends that are spread out far and wide, and who I normally only get to talk to via the internet. And don’t get me wrong, the internet is great! But there’s nothing quite like face-to-face hang out time, especially when it involves sharing really really good food.
Speaking of which! I have the dishes everyone made outlined below, and they’ll all be sharing them on their respective blogs soon, so keep your eyes peeled if one of them intrigues you! The key element all of the dishes, though, was rustic and tasty La Brea Bakery bread. While bread is one of the simplest foods in terms of ingredients, it is one of the most complex in terms of preparation and care, which is why it’s so important to get your bread from a trusted source. At La Brea Bakery, they mix the dough very slowly and allow it to rise and proof over a long period of time to maximize the amount of flavor that develops in each loaf. The top of each one is hand-scored before being baked in the oven, and once it’s out there’s a few key factors that demonstrate the flavor and overall quality of the loaf. The first is nice deep golden crust, which shows that the exterior of the bread has caramelized and also gives the bread a wonderful crisp texture on the exterior. The second is visible once you break into the loaf, and it’s the beautiful airy open-hole interior of the bread that creates a soft fluffy texture, and also provides the perfect small vessels for things like soup and spreads to soak into. They’ve been using the same starter since 1989, and it’s kept the flavor of their bread consistent and just as tasty now as it was back in the 80’s 🙂
As for my recipe, I used their pecan raisin loaf to make bread pudding with apples all over it. Now, up until this point I have not been a fan of raisins in baked goods, but OMGGGGGGGGG you guyssssssss. Unlike the hard dry chewy raisins I’ve encountered in baked things before, the raisins in this bread are little magical moist gooey bits of caramel flavor that spread their caramelized goodness when you bite into them. Then you get the nice little pecan bits which give a wonderfully crisp contrasting texture and a nutty warm flavor. So, I took this bread and soaked it in a mixture of milk, eggs, honey, maple syrup, chopped apples, vanilla extract, and spices. Sounds pretty good, right? Well then I put it all in a pan and covered it with apple slices and baked it in the oven. The apple layer on top basically acted as a lid of sorts for the bread pudding underneath, keeping all the steam in and basically creating the most moist, delicious, and cinnamon-tastic bread pudding of all time. And once it came out of the oven, I topped it with a salted caramel sauce before serving. It was so, so good, you guys. Really the perfect marriage of all the best flavors of fall, and very much a comfort food. I hope you all enjoy it as much as we did, and that these photos inspire you to host an autumnal gathering of you own!