The flavor and aroma of this comforting dessert is reminiscent of banana bread, but the consistency is chunkier and the top is crisper. The combined flavors–bananas, sautéed spiced apples and raisins plumped in apple brandy–make this bread pudding one that you will never forget. The most preferred type of bread for this recipe is Challah that’s been baked in a loaf pan without a seeded top, but any high quality store-bought white or egg bread (without seeds) would also produce fine results. This dessert is particularly soothing in cold weather, served slightly warm with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream. And in warmer weather, layer this bread pudding slightly warmed in a parfait glass with vanilla ice cream.
Although you'll lose some of the flavor, you can substantially reduce the saturated-fat content of this recipe by doing the following: When sautéing apples, omit butter and substitute 3 tablespoons unsweetened apple juice or cider, simmering until softened and fragrant. When assembling pudding, use milk instead of cream and reduce eggs from 3 to 1; increase banana puree to 1 1/2 cups and omit the last application of diced butter to the pudding.
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Place all topping ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process, using on-off turns, until mixture is finely chopped. Set aside. (Alternatively, place topping ingredients into a heavy-duty plastic bag and roll over mixture with a rolling pin until finely ground.)
Preheat the oven to 350o F. Brush a 2-quart baking dish with melted butter or spray with vegetable spray. Place cubed bread in a large bowl. Place raisins and brandy in a small saucepan over low heat until brandy comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and let plump in brandy.
Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in an 8- to 10-inch skillet over medium heat. When bubbling, add chopped apples. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg and, when apples are well coated with butter and spices, reduce heat to low. Cook over low heat until apples are softened and spices are fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. (Do not overcook apples; they should remain textural.)
In a large mixing bowl, combine cream, eggs, banana puree, vanilla and brown sugar. Stir well to combine and pour over the bowl of bread cubes. Scrape sautéed apples onto bread mixture and fold together along with raisins and brandy. Combine well. Dice the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and fold into mixture. Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the reserved topping evenly over the top.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit until just warm. Serve warm or at room temperature with a spoonful of softly whipped cream.
Place leftovers covered in the refrigerator; bring to room temperature or re-warm gently before serving. The best way to reheat bread pudding is in the microwave on low since conventional heat tends to dry it out. If you desire a crisper top, after microwaving, run the pudding very briefly under the broiler. Keep a watchful eye out to avoid burning.