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before you turn into a pumpkin

Recipe: pumpkin bread pudding with bourbon vanilla sauce

Indian Summer continues her reign over here in Colorado. It’s been positively beautiful weather and a perfect time to get together with old friends and meet new ones. My small group of gal pals got together for another foodista night, but this time closer to home at my beloved Frasca. Excellent food made even better with good company. The service, as usual, was beyond stellar. Extra-stellar.

frico caldo – shredded potato and cheese pancake

part of the wine flight

clearly having far too much fun

Kat stayed at my place overnight because she lives pretty far away. Kaweah was thrilled. She loves having house guests. You know… new pants to lick, new hands to sniff, someone to cuddle with and make mooney eyes at. The next morning I took Kat to the Indian Peaks Wilderness for a little hike in the snow. The sun was shining down and the powdery snow crunched underfoot. I spied ski tracks and I think I started salivating at the thought of ski season. It’s great to share a favorite place with a friend and have her understand how much you love it there. Kat and I have so much in common we joke that we may have been separated at birth.

that smooth part is ice on the lake

We grabbed lunch at Sushi Tora in Boulder before hopping over to The Pinyon to meet up with Kat’s friend who is a professional forager (and a generally cool chick all around). I couldn’t believe the beautiful stuff she found HERE – as in, SOMEWHERE IN THE WOODS. That blows my mind. I love it. I also met chef-owner Theo, a friendly and funny guy who talked about creative uses for various foraged ingredients.

gorgeous, tiny wild grapes

chef theo at work

It’s a super food-centric week for me because my dear friends Todd and Diane fly into Denver today to join me and Manisha at the Denver Botanic Gardens (their site seems to be having some server issues at the moment) for our lecture and workshop program. If you’re a local, please come join us! If not, here’s a (pretty good!) consolation prize… pumpkin bread pudding.

this could easily be awesome pumpkin french toast

pour melted butter over diced bread (i used challah)

Fall puts me in a mood – the best kind of mood. Warm spices, golden light, and pumpkins. I love little pumpkins because they’re cute. I didn’t realize until a few years ago that the cute little pumpkins were usually pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins. When I was in fourth grade, a neighbor had dropped off a pie pumpkin at our house. It sat for a week and then I learned of a pumpkin carving contest. I carved a happy little face on the pie pumpkin and went to the neighborhood Halloween festival that night. I walked up with my pumpkin and my pace slowed as I stared wide-eyed at the masterpieces on the table. Giant pumpkins, some of them strangely deformed, carved into elaborate works of terrifying and beautiful art. I stood for a moment, unsure of what to do with my pumpkin. My pumpkin had no business being there, ever.

mix everything but the bread and butter together

don’t forget the bourbon

I felt bashful and wanted to take my pumpkin home, but a friend called to me from the darkness to come and join her at the haunted house. She was decked out in glow bracelets, glow necklaces – she was looking radioactive. I set my pumpkin down on the table, trying to hide it behind the big cyclops. I was really attached to the happy little jack-o-lantern. I gave it a little pat on the head and ran off. By the end of the evening, my dad had rounded me up and wanted me to go home. It was getting late and people were breaking down the tents and booths. Walking across the soccer field I remembered my pumpkin and ran to the table. Ribbons – BIG ribbons – adorned the cyclops. Several of the other jack-o-lanterns had 2nd place, 3rd place, honorable mention ribbons taped over them. I found my happy jack-o-lantern, and it had a blue ribbon. A small one. It read “cutiest pumpkin”. I was a tad perplexed at the misspelling, but little pumpkin did alright!

combine the bread cubes with the custard

pour into a baking pan

I never carved another pumpkin though, because I couldn’t bear the thought of something with a face rotting away. My grandma bought me a cookie once that was iced with a happy face and I couldn’t eat it. Hey, we all have our issues… But as long as there isn’t a face carved onto a pumpkin, I will eat that sucker. Yes. I. Will. I love pumpkin and I love bread pudding and this is uber love right here. I couldn’t believe how easy the recipe was, so I added a bourbon vanilla custard sauce to boot.

steep the vanilla bean in the milk and cream

whisk sugar and egg yolks together

I made a half recipe of the custard only because I ran out of eggs (and probably because I don’t need to be consuming that much custard). If you make custard based ice creams, then you can do this one in your sleep. Temper the yolks with some hot cream, then cook the whole thing over medium heat while constantly stirring.

tempering the yolks

stir to a thickened custard

and yes to the bourbon

Let the custard cool before stirring in the bourbon. If you want a stronger custard, stir in more bourbon. You can serve it warm or cold with the bread pudding (which can also be served hot or warm).

baked pumpkin bread pudding

pour some custard over top

The pumpkin is subtle, but I love it. Jeremy isn’t a huge bread pudding fan, but he had two servings of this one. Oh, and I had worried that using challah (which was fresh, not stale) would be too soft and might disintegrate, but it was great and held together very well. Just don’t be too rough when mixing it together. This is one of the easiest pumpkin desserts I’ve ever made. I think it even beats out pumpkin pie for me.

don’t get sauced on the sauce

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Bourbon Vanilla Sauce
[print recipe]
from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 cups whole milk (or 1 cup heavy cream plus 1/2 cup whole milk)
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground allspice
pinch of ground cloves
2 tbsps bourbon
5 cups day-old baguette or crusty bread (I used challah), cubed about 1-inch
6 tbsps (3 oz.) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Toss the bread together with the butter in a large bowl. Set aside. Whisk the pumpkin, milk (and cream if using), sugar, eggs, egg yolk, salt, spices, and bourbon in another large bowl. Pour the pumpkin custard over the bread cubes and toss to coat. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish and bake 25 to 30 minutes until custard sets. You can also do this in individual ramekins (I had extra filling). The ramekins bake faster, so start checking them after 15 minutes. Serve the pumpkin bread pudding with bourbon vanilla custard sauce. Serves 6-8.

bourbon vanilla custard sauce
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 tbsps sugar
6 egg yolks
2 tbsps bourbon (or more)

Heat the milk and cream in a medium saucepan until boiling. Remove from heat. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the hot cream. Add the vanilla pod. Cover and steep for an hour. Remove the vanilla pod and reheat the cream until just boiling. Remove from heat. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks together in a medium bowl. Temper the yolks by whisking in a few tablespoons of the hot cream at a time until you’ve incorporated about half of the cream. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the remaining hot cream/milk and stir over medium heat until the custard thickens. Remove from heat. Let cool. Stir in the bourbon. Makes 2 cups.

32 nibbles at “before you turn into a pumpkin”

  1. Magda says:

    What a wonderful picture of the tiny wild grapes. I don’t think I have ever seen such grapes before.

    I love puddings like these and that custard… oh, it looks so good.
    Btw, your smitten kitchen link doesn’t work.

  2. Eva says:

    Wow – this looks amazing!

  3. jenyu says:

    Magda – thanks! It works now :)

  4. Kelly says:

    I made the pumpkin bread pudding from Deb’s recipe with friends the other day, using a fresh hearty baguette, and it was super delicious! We added a soaking step before baking, though, which I think I would do even longer next time (like at least half an hour or so) — but then I really like a bread pudding where the custard really gets all the way through the bread. We also followed Deb’s Greek yogurt-topping suggestion, which was awesome for brunch — though as a dessert option your bourbon vanilla custard sauce sounds like a great idea, yowza.

    Hi from a fellow Southeastern Virginia native, by the way (Virginia Beach here)!

  5. Maria says:

    Oh my-the bread pudding looks amazing. I am obsessed with pumpkin right now!

  6. Kim says:

    My folks are coming into Boulder this weekend, and this is the perfect dessert for dinner on Saturday night! Your photos are beautiful.

  7. Troy says:

    I just hosted an “Everything Pumpkin” party that included a plethora of pumpkin desserts, dips and beverages. This bread pudding looks amazing and I can’t wait to debut it at next year’s pumpkin festivities.

    I loved the story you incorporated into this post about the pumpkin. It reminded me of carving googly pumpkin faces with my dad when I was younger. He used to tell me to make the faces scary because the pumpkins would come alive at night. Naturally, I believed him :)

  8. Bev Weidner says:

    I am in disbelief at what I’m looking at. My heart is so happy.

  9. Katie says:

    OMG. YUM! I want to host brunch so I can make this.

  10. Bridget says:

    Somehow I’ve never really made bread pudding, and I never order it in restaurants, but I always try bites of other people’s in restaurants and love it. I think the first one I ever had was pumpkin, and it was amazing!

  11. Julia says:

    Challah makes an excellent bread pudding. There was a great recipe for Coconut bread pudding from Laurent Torondel in the NY Times a few years ago that uses challah or brioche. So good:

  12. peabody says:

    Now you are talking my language. I can never turn down a bread pudding!!! Looks awesome.

  13. Pam Rauber says:

    Ooooo! you bad girl. It was the custard that did it.

  14. Maria says:

    I appreciated your story about the cutiest pumpkin. You’re a good story teller. I felt so apprehensive for you walking into that crowd with all those decked out jack-o-lanterns. And then what a happy-and quirky-ending!

    I made this bread pudding last year. Need to get me some bourbon and make it again this year with a custard sauce!

    I linked to your blog in my post (Pumpkin Cream Cheese Coffeecake) today. Also inspired by Smitten Kitchen! Thanks for years of great reading, Jen!

  15. Denise @ TLT says:

    OH yeah! This looks so good, maximum comfort dessert:)

  16. laura h says:

    The frico caldo looks great!

  17. barbara says:

    This is totally new to me Jen. We have bread pudding and we have pumpkin…but never in one dish. Sounds interesting. Bryan doesn’t like pumpkin but I might try this out on him.

  18. Sally - My Custard Pie says:

    Bread pudding was a regular frugal dish in my household as a child – but it never tasted like this! Bravo for actually making me want to read and make a pumpkin recipe.

  19. Fara says:

    G A L O R E!

  20. Diana Banana says:

    are you serious when you say this might beat out pumpkin pie? because my husband and i devoured a pie in 2 days….and that was because we were controlling ourselves. (pie makes for an excellent breakfast) i might have to separate this bread pudding into 2 batches, just to fit in other foods into our daily intake. :)

    that’s such a sweet story about your cutiest pumpkin. i remember many times being young and eager for competition events, only to show up realizing that i had no idea what i was getting into. i’m glad you had the courage to set your little pumpkin up, and happy that someone noticed! and it’s true, small pumpkins make me so much happier than big ones. :)

  21. Lisa is Bossy says:

    Oh my. This looks amazing! Is it very pumpkiny tasting? Might need to try it for the man’s bday next weekend (the reason we’re leaving town!)

  22. Deborah says:

    Will make this for Thanksgiving! Yum!!! Enjoyed your presentation and cooking class at DBG yesterday…thanks for yummy scallion pancakes and dipping sauces! Do you ever go to the Monte Vista Crane Festival banquet? They usually have a good local fare….read fresh potatoes and grass fed beef!!! Do you stay at the Movie Manor? No place better! My sister adopted a stay dog from their parking lot one year…Buster. Quite a character.

  23. Margie says:

    I love your pumpkin story. I was into reading it and thought, ‘Oh my, I hope she didn’t become discouraged when she saw those other pumpkins!’ … I knew in my heart that it had to be a winner, even before you told me. ;)

    Now, this recipe…what am I to do with you? Such elegance. Pure. Simple. Divine.

    There are two trusty pie pumpkins sitting in my window. We shall see what becomes of one of them. Or, two?
    (btw…I LOVE that you used Challah. The egg-iness of the bread, with the pumpkin, and then THAT custard…sheer genius!

  24. jillian says:

    Oh this looks amazing! I loved that you used Knob Creek in the sauce- my husband likes to mock my affinity for it.

  25. ARC says:

    ohhh, this combines 2 of my favorite things ever, pumpkin pie and bread pudding. Once we’re done with our Whole30 paleo/whole foods only challenge, I’m so going to make this :)

  26. jenyu says:

    Kelly – hello fellow native! We used to visit VA Beach all the time when I was growing up :)

    Maria – me too!! I have two pumpkins on my counters waiting for magic!!

    Troy – awww, that’s so sweet. I think that’s the stuff of great memories that we take with us through life, don’t you?

    Katie – this would be fantastic for brunch.

    Bridget – I am a bread pudding whore.

    Julia – I know… all of that butter!! ;)

    Peabody – thanks, Pea!

    Maria – thank you :)

    laura h – it was soooo good!

    Barbara – I’ve heard that in Oz folks use pumpkin a lot, but never in sweet dishes. So funny because pumpkin is big in sweets here.

    Diana Banana – if you are a custard fan, then this will beat pumpkin pie. I like both very much :)

    Lisa is Bossy – it’s not terribly pumpkin-y. In fact, I might add more pumpkin next time. Happy bday to S!!

    Deborah – you are so sweet, thank you for coming! I’ve never been to the MVCF banquet – we’re usually too busy chasing down birds to photograph :)

    Margie – life has a way of working out, I suppose? I should have turned that pumpkin into pie ;)

    jillian – my favorite employee at Boulder Wine and Spirits helps me select my booze for baking, cooking, and drinking!

    ARC – same here on two favorites!

  27. Liebemarlene » Things I like right now: Baking says:

    […] last batch, fortunately).  The top picture is from over the weekend, when I made challah bread for pumpkin bread pudding.  Instead of celebrating Valentine’s day and doing gifts Drew and I just made a nice meal, […]

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  32. Elena says:

    You had me at Bourbon Custard, can’t wait to try this one.

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