Little Apple Bread Puddings

IMG_1639First off, I have to say these were my first bread puddings, ever. As much as I love to reuse, recycle, and abhor throwing anything away, for some reason bread pudding always made me think “compost”–for dessert.

But we have the most wonderful little bakery right next-door, and lately they’ve been going to town with sweet and savory bread puddings, and as I’ve stood in line for my coffee and croissant, my eyes have been forced to rest on the beautiful, crispy, buttery slabs of goodness, and… I had to make some.

Now back to the first part. I’d never made bread pudding, and I didn’t want to get hung up on recipes. I skimmed a few, ditched the parts that took too much time, and settled on what is basically deconstructed French toast in a ramekin, with extra stuff sprinkled about.

Warm and custardy, caramelized and crunchy–we were happy.

Apple Cinnamon Bread Pudding (makes 4 small ramekins)

For the base:
2 Tbsps. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the ramekins
1 cup (240ml), about 1 medium apple, peeled and cut into small cubes
1-1/2 cups (360ml) stale bread cubes-about 1/2 inch square
1/3 cup (80ml) raisins (optional)
1/3 cup (80ml) walnuts, chopped (optional)
Pinch salt
A few pinches cinnamon
1 Tbsp. (15ml) sugar–I used coconut palm sugar

For the custard:
2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
3/4 cup (180ml) heavy cream
2 Tbps. (30ml) liquid sweetener–I used coconut palm syrup, but you could use maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, etc. I wouldn’t use molasses.
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla
A few pinches cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg
A pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C degrees.

Lightly grease the ramekins with butter.

In a frying pan, melt the butter. Add the apples, bread, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon and salt. Cook over medium heat for about five minutes, until everything is starting to color. The bread will be soft, not crispy. Add the sugar and cook for another minute. Distribute the mixture between the four ramekins and let cool.

Whisk together the eggs, yolk, cream, liquid sweetener, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Ladle over the bread mixture, distributing evenly.

Put the ramekins on a baking dish, cover with wax paper or plastic wrap and weigh the tops down with small plates or dishes to push the bread into the custard. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Remove the weights, paper or plastic. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the puddings are puffy, golden and cooked through. When you insert a knife it should come out clean without traces of egg.

Serve warm or room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream, in or unmolded from the ramekin.