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Currant Bread Pudding

After being out of style for decades, old-fashioned bread pudding has once again become fashionable. Egg bread, such as or challah and brioche, produces a particularly light, airy texture and rich flavor. Crème anglaise, the classic vanilla custard sauce, elevates the homey pudding to a special-occasion dessert. The currants can be replaced with other dried fruits, such as cherries, diced apricots or cranberries, or even chopped semisweet chocolate or toasted nuts.

Ingredients:

  • 8 thin slices day-old challah (see related recipe at left), brioche or top-quality white bread, about 1/2 lb. total
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • Whipped cream or crème anglaise (see related recipe at left) for serving (optional)

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Lightly butter a 2-quart baking dish. Line a shallow baking pan with a small kitchen towel.

Trim the crusts from the bread and cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes. You need about 3 cups, lightly packed. Scatter the bread in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the currants on top.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and salt until blended, then whisk in the milk. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve over the bread and set aside for 20 minutes to moisten the bread. Tilt the dish occasionally to keep the bread evenly covered with the liquid.

Place the baking dish in the towel-lined pan and pour hot water into the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake until a knife inserted into the center of the pudding comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Carefully remove the baking dish from the water bath and let cool completely on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate to chill for up to 3 hours.

Top each serving with whipped cream or crème anglaise. if desired. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking, by Cathy Burgett, Elinor Klivans & Lou Seibert Pappas (Oxmoor House, 2003).