While the bounty of spring greens has been plentiful at local farmers' markets, the selection of fruit is still limited mostly to apples and rumors of a few stray strawberries (I'll believe it when I see it). But for those of you who want to bake a seasonally inspired dessert, there's plenty of rhubarb to be had. This recipe for Rhubarb Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce will satisfy your urges until the strawberries arrive.
Adapted from Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian, I was skeptical at first about the inclusion of tart rhubarb into a dessert that is usually simply sweet. But as it turns out, the slightly sour rhubarb does wonders when matched with eggy, cinnamony raisin bread and a whiskey spiked sauce.
I made mine using the leftovers from a loaf of Raisin Walnut Bread with a dense crumb that ended up being the perfect bread pudding bread. Once the cubes of day old bread were soaked in a milk, egg, and vanilla bath and mixed with cinnamon sugar-dusted rhubarb, the bread pudding baked up beautifully. The bread softened but didn't bread down into mush, and the chunks of rhubarb added a tart brightness that broke up the monotony that I sometimes suffer from when faced with a giant serving of bread pudding. The whiskey sauce is the proverbial icing on the cake, not really necessary but man, was it delicious, especially for dipping the crusty edges of the bread pudding.
- For the Bread Pudding:
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 cups day-old cinnamon bread (with or without raisins), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 pound fresh rhubarb (about 6 hefty stalks), cut into 1/2-inch slices, or 4 cups frozen rhubarb
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- For the Whiskey Sauce:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons half-and-half
- 2 tablespoons whiskey
- Pinch of salt
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir the bread into egg mixture, cover bowl, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours, pushing bread down into liquid from time to time.
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter an 8-inch-square baking pan. In a medium bowl, combine rhubarb, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and cinnamon. Gently stir rhubarb mixture into bread mixture. Pour mixture evenly into prepared baking pan. Bake until golden brown and slightly puffed, 55 minutes to 1 hour 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for about 30 minutes.
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in sugar, half-and-half, whiskey, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
To serve, spoon warm bread pudding into serving bowls and drizzle with warm whiskey sauce.