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Pumpkin Gingersnap Bread Pudding with Mascarpone Cream

August 17, 2010

This is one of those recipes that does what I hate to do: clean out my refrigerator. In this case, it took care of that little bit of leftover pumpkin puree, a haphazardly opened packet of ginger nut biscuits (ginger snaps) (it was house guest, I swear), a half loaf of day-old bread, the rest of a carton of questionable milk, and the second half of a tub of mascarpone.

Cubed stale bread and chunks of ginger nut biscuits, waiting to be soaked

Inspiration hit when we were invited to a lovely, leisurely Sunday lunch. The meal concluded with a beautiful traditional bread pudding, my all-time favorite. Still thinking about it when we got home, we ran into our neighbors who had just baked – what else? – a bread pudding.

Dessert for tonight’s dinner party was decided.

And...soaked. Yours should be even more liquidy than this...my bad.

The pudding turned out earthy and not too sweet. (You can always add more sugar if that’s your thing.) The ginger nut biscuits all but melted into the pudding; they didn’t add the crunch I was hoping for, but they did add nice flavor. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow my own advice and it’s a bit too dry for my taste (probably because the combination of cookies and sturdy bread soaked up more liquid than I’m used to). Fortunately, that’s nothing an extra dousing of bourbon sauce and mascarpone cream can’t fix.

This cream has exactly the texture I was looking for: creamy, smooth and weighty. If you want yours a bit lighter, just up the amount of heavy cream and decrease the amount of mascarpone. I didn’t add spices or zest, but I think that they would really help cut through the intense creaminess. Not that creaminess is a bad thing.

I also think I’ll serve this with a simple salted caramel bourbon sauce, but we’ll see.  My dwindling supply of bourbon is definitely not one of the things I want to get rid of.

Now if only I could find someone to take care of that near-empty jar of horseradish cream and last week’s leftover Turkish chili-yogurt dip…

Printable version

PUMPKIN GINGERSNAP BREAD PUDDING

I decided to measure out my ingredients for the sake of this here blog, but they are approximate and you should eyeball it. I usually use a weak, store-bought, pre-sliced bread for bread pudding, but I figured that the pumpkin and bitey ginger cookies could handle a stronger, crustier loaf.

If you don’t have exactly enough of this, that or the other thing, don’t worry. There are only a few important things to remember about bread pudding, such as making sure there’s enough liquid, but, in general, it’s really forgiving. Especially with ice cream on top.

Serves 8 – 10

8 cups stale bread, cubed

butter dotted and ready for the oven

2/3 packet ginger nut biscuits (ginger snaps), roughly broken

3 cups (or more) milk (this can be a combination of milk and cream)

3 eggs

1 cup pumpkin purée (ok, ok, it was butternut squash)

1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar (depending on taste)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

1/4 cup bourbon (optional but recommended)

Rub butter on the bottom and sides of a large baking dish. Cut the bread into small, 1/2″ cubes, removing crusts if desired. Break each cookie into 4 or 5 pieces.

ginger nut biscuits!

In a very large bowl, beat the eggs then add all the other ingredients (besides the bread and cookies) until smooth. Mix in the bread cubes and cookie chunks, and stir to coat. Let the mixture sit, stirring often, for about 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C. To check if there’s enough liquid, press on the bread with the back of a spoon. If the spoon does not get covered by liquid, add some more milk or cream until and mix well.

When the oven is preheated, pour the very soggy bread mixture into the prepared dish. You can dot the top with butter if you want.

Bake for 40 minutes to an hour, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Bread pudding can be made a few days ahead and stored in the fridge.

printable version

MASCARPONE CREAM

makes enough to top 8 – 10 slices of bread pudding, pie, compote or crumble

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup (8 oz.) mascarpone

1/3 cup icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, some lemon zest (optional)

In a large bowl, use a hand-held beater to whip  all the ingredients until stiff, about 4 minutes. This can be made, at most, a day ahead, but ideally no more than 5 hours, in the fridge.

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