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!
Apple Raisin Pecan Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel
SALTED CARAMEL DRIZZLE
- 1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
- 2 tablespoons Water
- 1/2 cup Heavy Cream at room temperature
- 1/3 cup Brown Sugar packed
- 1/4 cup Butter at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
APPLE PECAN RAISIN BREAD PUDDING
- Unsalted butter for greasing
- 3 large eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon flake kosher sea salt
- 10 cups La Brea Bakery Pecan Raisin bread about 2 - 3 loaves, cut into 1-inch cubes and left out overnight to dry out
- 1 medium apple peeled and grated
- 4 medium apples peeled and thinly sliced with a mandolin
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cold and hard
SALTED CARAMEL DRIZZLE
In a small thick-bottomed saucepan mix together the water and the granulated sugar until well blended. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat and continue boiling until the mixture turns a light caramel color, only stirring once every four minutes. This took me about eight minutes, but the speed will depend upon the heat of your stovetop.
Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the heavy cream, brown sugar, and butter until incorporated. Be careful as the mixture will spit and hiss a bit. If the sugar begins to clump up when you’re stirring do not fret, just stir as best as you can for about 30 seconds and then put the pot back on the heat and bring it back to a boil again over medium-low heat. Once it is boiling again stir until the sugar chunk dissolves and the mixture is smooth. Once it smoothes out, stir it every two minutes and allow the mixture to simmer for 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Remove from the stovetop and stir in the salt. Allow to cool to room temperature.
APPLE PECAN RAISIN BREAD PUDDING
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place an 8-inch cake pan two thirds full of water on the lowest rack of the oven. This will fill the oven with steam as it simmers and help keep the bread pudding moist. Generously grease a 10-inch in diameter and 3-inch deep circular baking pan with unsalted butter.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, milk, cream, maple, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, allspice, and salt until completely smooth.
In a separate large bowl, toss together the bread cubes and chopped apple. Pour the egg mixture over the bread mixture and toss gently with your hands to coat. Allow the mixture to soak for 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, toss together the apple slices with the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Set aside.
Pour the bread mixture into the baking pan, pressing down on the bread pudding in the pan to compress the bread cubes to allow them all to fit in the pan. Arrange the apple slices in a spiral-shaped pattern over the bread pudding. Dot with the butter and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon sugar. Place the pan on a rack just above the water-filled cake pan and bake until the bread pudding pulls away from the sides of the pan and looks golden on top, about 50 minutes. Remove the bread pudding from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes before drizzling with the caramel sauce and serving.