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The Berghoff Café Cookbook
by Carlyn Berghoff & Nancy Ross Ryan
Prunes were very popular in the cafe and in our home, where they found their way into a variety of savory and sweet dishes. But this bourbon-prune bread pudding was always my favorite. It is rich, so it is not a dessert I serve often. But when I want to make something special, this is the recipe I reach for.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
• 10 cups cubed egg bread or challah, cut into 2-inch cubes
• 1½ cups good-quality pitted prunes, quartered
• 1/3 cup Berghoff bourbon
• 2 cups half-and-half
• 1 cup milk (use 1% or 2%, to decrease the fat)
• 4 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
• Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving
• Vanilla or cinnamon ice cream, for serving
• Caramel sauce, for serving
Spread out the bread cubes on a large baking tray and let dry, uncovered, overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a 1-quart bowl, combine the prunes with the bourbon; cover and let soak until the prunes are slightly plump but not all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Strain the prune mixture, reserving the prunes and bourbon separately.
In a large bowl, whisk together the reserved bourbon, half-and-half, milk, eggs, yolks, 3/4 cup of the sugar, vanilla, and almond extract until well combined.
Butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Evenly distribute the bread cubes and prunes inside the baking dish. Pour the custard mixture over the bread cubes and prunes and let soak for 15 minutes, tossing once.
Meanwhile, bring about 8 cups of water to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Evenly distribute the remaining sugar over the top of the bread pudding. Set the pudding-filled baking dish into a larger roasting pan filled one quarter of the way up with hot water. Add more hot water so it reaches a 1-inch depth along the sides of the baking dish. Bake, covered with foil, for 30 minutes. Then uncover and bake until the custard is set and the top is lightly browned, and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 more minutes (45 minutes in all).
Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold, topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream, vanilla or cinnamon ice cream, and caramel sauce.
Old-world frugality was responsible for the creation of many Berghoff present-day desserts. For example, the great-grandfather of today's Berghoff bourbon bread pudding was the practice of recycling Brot (German-style black bread) and dried fruits into desserts such as bread pudding. Today's is so much better because we recycle such widely available, delicious, lighter breads as egg bread or challah, and there is no shortage of sugar, eggs, and—an ingredient Old World cooks would seldom have used for baking—premium bourbon.
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