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Banana-Raisin Bread Pudding with Brandy Sauce

The familiar taste of ripe bananas brings a new twist to a classic bread pudding that is also accented by fragrant vanilla, full-flavored brown sugar and a silky brandy sauce. Starting with cinnamon-raisin bread instead of a plain loaf is a simple way to add dimension to this rich, comforting dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb. sliced cinnamon-raisin bread, cut into 1-inch squares
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 2 Tbs., melted
  • 4 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3 cups milk
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 ripe bananas, peeled, cut lengthwise into quarters, then crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 Tbs. firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs. brandy

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Place the bread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake the squares until the bread is dry, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Grease a 3-quart baking dish with the room-temperature butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together 3 cups of the cream, the milk, 3 of the egg yolks, the whole eggs, the 2/3 cup granulated sugar, the vanilla and salt. Submerge the dried bread in the mixture and let soak for 30 minutes, stirring and pressing the bread into the liquid every 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine the banana slices and brown sugar and toss well.

Place half of the soaked bread in the prepared baking dish and cover evenly with the bananas. Top with the remaining bread, pour any remaining cream-egg mixture over the top, drizzle with the melted butter and sprinkle with about 1 Tbs. granulated sugar.

Place the baking dish in a large roasting pan, transfer the pan to the oven and pour 1 inch of very hot water into the roasting pan. Bake until the top is golden brown and the pudding is just set, about 1 hour. Transfer the roasting pan to a wire rack and let the pudding cool in the water bath.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, whisk together the remaining 1 3/4 cups cream, the remaining 4 egg yolks and the 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, 5 to 6 minutes (do not let the mixture boil). Whisk in the brandy, then strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve.

To serve, spoon the warm pudding into bowls and drizzle with the sauce. Serves 12.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Desserts, by Raquel Pelzel (Oxmoor House, 2008).