Bread pudding is the dessert of my dreams – unlike anything else in baking which requires precision and accuracy, bread pudding is forgiving and versatile. Best of all, the basic recipe holds up with a plethora of changes to the ingredients list – the bread can be anything from challah to croissants, the filling can be chocolate, fruit or nuts and the spices can run the gammut from cinnamon, vanilla, almond, rum or cloves. The entire mess is bathed in a luscious egg custard and baked to perfection.
This particular bread pudding is the perfect celebration of flavors and textures – the creamy white chocolate melts into the custard and the cherries stud the spongy bread with tart sweetness. Best of all, your prep includes very little chopping and some basic whisking. Easier than pie (or cake or cookies or streudel). This also gets better with age – let the bread pudding chill for a day and then warm the slices the next day for a denser, moister treat. Which means that you can make this a day before guests show up and you’ll be the star of the show two days in a row.
White Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding
1 large loaf of challah or pannetone
4 cups of heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons rum or almond extract
2 c. halved cherries (or well-rinsed Amarena cherries)
1 cup of white chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
Begin by buttering a 13x9x2 pan (or festive casserole pan, lol). Cube the bread into rough, 1 inch chunks and add to a large mixing bowl. Toss with chocolate chips and cherries. Dump mixture into the casserole and let hang out while you make the custard.
In the same large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, extracts and cinnamon. Pour the custard mixture over the bread cubes and press down to allow the bread to soak up the liquid. Let it sit for fifteen minutes and then press cubes down again.
Bake on 375° for 1 1/2 hours, or until the middle of the bread pudding is mostly firm and no longer jiggly. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.