Since early March, we have been on a maple syrup and french toast kick and the end is nowhere in sight…yet. :D The downside (besides the weight-gaining, of course) is that our super-delicious local maple syrup stash is decreasing at a faster rate than we had initially expected…in fact, it’s almost gone! Then, I found out that there is a maple festival going on this weekend, which means we will have plenty of opportunity to stock up again, yay! (Suddenly, the world is right again, LOL)
Last weekend, instead of making our usual french toast, I decided to try Ina Garten’s french toast bread pudding recipe which can be found in the Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? cookbook or on the Food Network website). That was what the whole wheat challah bread was for…so taking into account that I actually used whole wheat bread for this dish, and that I served it topped with fresh fruit, can I call it healthy and balanced despite the huge amount of eggs and dairy used? Hmmmm… The bread pudding has definitely been an indulgence - it was super-rich but oh so delicious, dense but tender, moist but not mushy and sliced like a dream. We have been enjoying it for breakfast this whole week…what a treat! :D I could definitely see making this again, but not too often though…maybe when we have guests over so we could share the sin. :D
Note though that I didn’t bake the bread pudding in a water bath as the recipe called for. Instead, I baked it directly in the 9″ x 13″ baking dish (greased with unsalted butter) but at a lower temperature (325°F). I covered it with nonstick foil with holes to allow steam to escape for the first 45 minutes, and then removed the foil for the remaining 45 minutes. The bread turned out great and I didn’t have another huge pan to wash (an extremely important point when it comes to cleaning up *grin*).
I wanted to serve the bread pudding with maple syrup and berries (and I went to three different stores to look for fresh berries) but I couldn’t find any that were acceptable. First, there were either no berries, or there were some but they looked (for the lack of a better descriptive word) crappy, or they were too expensive and I wasn’t that desperate…okay, I was but I still wasn’t going to pay that exorbitant price. So what’s a gal to do? I ended up making an orange and cranberry topping, the two ingredients I already had on hand anyway and they went really well (not surprisingly) with the orange-flavored bread pudding. :D Yum!
To segment the oranges for the topping, slice off the ends of each orange. Then, cut away the remaining peel (including the white pith). Hold the orange over your dish, use a paring knife to cut the sections of fruit cleanly out of the membrane. Before discarding the leftover membrane, squeeze it for extra juice. Click here to watch a video on how to segment any citrus fruit (courtesy of saveur.com). After you finish prepping the oranges, stir in the dried cranberries and let the mixture sit in the fridge for an hour or two (if you can wait that long) to plump up the cranberries. Serve with the bread pudding (drizzled with maple syrup if desired). Enjoy!