There is never an excuse to throw away stale bread. Although breadcrumbs and croutons are the easiest ways to make use of an old loaf, bread putting is definitely the most satisfying. Matt and I headed to a pick-ur-own in upstate this weekend. In addition to scouring for the sweetest apples, pulling heads of cabbage from the ground with our bear hands, and trying to determine what a ripe eggplant looks like, we picked up a few small sugar pumpkins. Once baked, the skin turned an amazing orange-brown. With my slightly stale loaf of whole wheat and fresh pumpkin puree, I set out to make delectable peasant food. After weeding through some totally pretentious recipes, I gave a call to my mother, who reminded me of its simple roots. Pumpkin aside, I tried to keep the recipe true to what bread pudding should be like: easy, comforting, and sweet.
Pumpkin Bread Pudding
3 cups cubed slightly stale whole wheat bread (if your bread isn’t quite stale, toast in the oven at 325 for 5-10 minutes)
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree (below homemade recipe, or 1/2 can)
1 cup whole milk (you can also use skim or soy, depending on your taste and diet)
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
1/4 cup raw sugar (you can substitute dark or light brown sugar if need be)
1/4 cup pecan halves (optional)
A handful or golden raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, and drained
Some good turns of fresh nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup ghee or melted butter
Set the oven to 350 and make sure the rack is in the middle. Grease a 9x9x3 pan with ghee or butter. Dry roast the pecan halves on medium in a saute pan (about 5 minutes, making sure to flip ‘em periodically so they don’t burn). Coarsely chop the pecans. Whisk (ball whisk is best) the pumpkin puree, sugar, egg, brandy, and ghee or butter in a medium bowl. Add in the milk, spices, and salt and whisk. Put the bread and raisins in a large bowl. Pour the wet ingredients over the cubed bread and mix. Let sit for at least half an hour, until the bread has soaked up some of the liquid. Place in the pan and top with the pecans. Bake for 40-45 minutes. If a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, it’s done. If the top isn’t crispy enough, turn the oven onto broil, lower the rack, and cook for 1 or 2 minutes more. Watch carefully, as it can burn easily. Best served with homemade whipped cream.
Alternate option: While I intended to bake it immediately, I ran out of time, and ended up leaving the soaking cubes in the fridge all day. They soaked up most of the liquid, so I added more milk. This resulted in more bloated, flavorful bread, but the bread also became the pudding, instead of it sitting in one. I am very happy with the results, and so I put the option to you. If you choose this route, mix the wet and dry ingredients, let them sit in the fridge for 4-6 hours (or overnight), take them out while you’re heating the oven, and then pour one cup warm milk over the mixture once you’ve placed it into the pan. Cook for the same amount of time.
1 small sugar pumpkin
A few cloves
Butter or ghee
Turn the oven on to 375. Trim the pumpkin stem with a heavy knife (not your good one). Cut the “lid” off the pumpkin 2″ from the stem. Scrape out the seeds and strings with a spoon, and reserve the seeds for toasting. Rub the inside of the pumpkin and the lid with butter, stud with cloves, and grind in some nutmeg. Place in a shallow baking dish in the oven for up to 90 minutes, until the skin has turned dark and the meat is soft. Remove from the oven, take off the lid, and let cool. Scrape out the meat and blend in a blender. Set aside.