I still have a mother lode of golden Lucia buns burning a hole in my freezer and the holiday season in Sweden officially ends on the 20th day after Christmas or tjugondagknut (which happens to be Friday the 13th this year…how cheery). In my efforts to come up with creative ways to use all of those saffron buns up I plan to make the saffron bread stuffing again but had a hunch they might also work well in a bread pudding. I love it when hunches turn out to be well-founded.
This bread pudding was inspired by two recipes. The base is the Orange-Almond Bread Pudding recipe I found in my Christmas gift of David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert, and the second influence is the bread pudding recipe on Elise Bauer’s site simplyrecipes.com. Taking elements from each and incorporating typical Swedish holiday spices of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger makes for a soul-satisfying, orange-kissed bread pudding that is studded with cognac-soaked currants and drizzled with a buttery cognac sauce. It’s a scrumptious and comforting way to warm-up on a cold winter evening, especially now that the rains, winds, and storms have returned to southern Sweden. If you consider that the holiday season is over in your neck of the woods or you are fresh out of Lucia buns, bookmark this one for next year. It’s worth keeping in mind. Happy New Year!
updated January 8, 2012 I only posted this recipe a couple of days ago, but we enjoyed it so much I made another batch right away and added a pecan, brown sugar, and butter topping. The added crunch and butter seeping through the top layer took this dessert over the top. The pecan topping will be a must for me in the future. If you decide to skip the pecan topping, just sprinkle the top of the pudding liberally with granulated sugar before you bake it.
Saffron bread pudding
Start your bread pudding project two days in advance so there is time for both the currants and the bread to soak overnight. Bread pudding is best served warm so ideally serve it soon after you bake it. If that isn’t possible, or you shockingly find yourself with leftovers, the baked pudding can be rewarmed the next day at a low temperature in the oven. The recipe can easily be doubled. I prefer desserts that are on the less-sweet side so I used the 1/4 cup of sugar in the bread pudding and it’s still quite sweet.
For the bread pudding
1/2 cup (30g) dried currants
2 tablespoons cognac
1 cup (240ml) half & half
1 cup (240ml) heavy cream
grated zest of 3 clementines or 1 orange
1/4-1/2 cup (50-100g) sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla sugar
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups (250g) cubed saffron bread from Lucia buns
For the sauce
4 tablespoons (55g) butter
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/4-1/2 cup (60-120ml) cognac
whipped cream for serving (optional)
Make the bread pudding
1. Place the currants in a small bowl and pour the cognac over them. Give them a good stir and then let them soak in the cognac overnight.
2. Cut the saffron bread into 1″ (2.5cm) cubes and place them in a large bowl covered with a kitchen towel overnight.
3. Warm the half & half, cream, zest, and sugar in a medium saucepan stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for one hour.
4. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Rewarm the cream mixture without letting it simmer and slowly pour it into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs. Whisk in the vanilla, cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. Pour the entire cream mixture through a fine mesh strainer over the saffron bread cubes. Add the cognac soaked currants to the bread mix and stir gently.
5. Butter an 8″x8″ (1 liter) shallow baking dish or souffle dish. Pour the bread pudding mix into the dish and chill overnight, pushing down on the bread occasionally to make sure everything gets nicely saturated.
6. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). In a small bowl mix the butter, brown sugar, and pecans together with your fingers. Spread the pecan topping over the bread pudding. It doesn’t matter if there are some small gaps in the topping as the butter and sugar will melt and blend everything nicely together. Bake until puffed and golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool till warm.
Make the sauce
1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the sugar. Beat the egg lightly and add it slowly to the butter and sugar mixture, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the egg and ensuring that all of the sugar has dissolved. Cook the mixture over low heat until it thickens, whisking constantly. Do not let it simmer. Whisk in the cognac to your taste and heat the sauce until it is gently warm. Offer the warm sauce and whipped cream alongside the warm bread pudding.