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.
For the Topping
- 1/3 cup walnut halves
- 2 rounded tablespoons granulated white sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
For the Pudding
- Melted butter or vegetable spray, for baking dish
- 4 packed cups day-old egg bread or white bread with crusts, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/3 cup mixed light and dark raisins
- 1/4 cup apple brandy (Calvados or applejack)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups packed peeled, cored and coarsely chopped Golden Delicious apples
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
- 1 1/2 cup heavy cream or (preferably not ultra-pasteurized) or half-and-half
- 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup banana puree (about 2 large very ripe bananas)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for garnish
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.
To prepare the topping
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.)
To set up
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.
To sauté the apples
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.)
To assemble the bread pudding
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.
To bake and serve
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.
To store and reheat
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.