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      Apricot Bread Pudding
      1 cup dried apricots, sliced, or 8 fresh apricots, cut in small wedges
      1-1/4 cups sugar
      Pudding:
      7 egg yolks
      1/3 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
      2 cups half-and-half or whole milk
      2 cups cream
      Grated zest of 1 orange
      1/4 tsp salt
      1 tsp vanilla extract
      1/4 tsp almond extract
      1/8 tsp nutmeg
      1 tbs kirsch
      4 oz good-quality almond paste, cut in pea-size pieces, optional
      5 cups bread cubes
      In a small saucepan, simmer the apricots in 1 cup water and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Poach the fruit until tender, about 12 minutes for dried, 5 for fresh. Drain the fruit, saving the liquid, and set the fruit aside to cool. Return the poaching liquid to the saucepan and add the remaining 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Boil this mixture, and when it begins to brown, swirl the pan so that it caramelizes evenly. Cook to a medium amber color. Very carefully pour the hot caramel into a 2-quart gratin dish or divide it evenly among 6 small ramekins. Cool.
      Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl. Slowly add 1/3 cup sugar and mix well. Whisk in the half-and-half or milk and the cream. Add the orange zest, salt, vanilla and almond extracts, nutmeg, and kirsch. Gently fold in the poached apricots; the almond paste, if using; and the bread cubes. Transfer the pudding mixture to the gratin dish or ramekins. Let rest at least 1 hour or refrigerate overnight.
      Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Sprinkle a little sugar over the top of the pudding. Place the gratin dish or ramekins on a baking sheet to catch any overflow. Bake until nicely browned, about 55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 8 servings
      money1 smilie

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