Sunday, January 29, 2017

New Orleans Bread Pudding

Yesterday I thought there was a party for some friends of ours who will be leaving to serve a mission in Louisiana. I needed to bring a dessert, so I thought it would be a good excuse to make a New Orleans style bread pudding I've been wanting to recreate. (I've also been practicing some recipes for my upcoming DC Gourmet Club, and bread pudding has been on that list.) Sadly, I got my weeks mixed up and there was no party last night, so I ended up passing out warm bread pudding to my neighbors!

My inspiration came from the amazing bread pudding at Henry's Louisiana Grill in Georgia. I love it so much that my district office even ordered it in to celebrate my last birthday! Henry's bread pudding is really good, but what's amazing is the insane caramel sauce that he ladles over the bread pudding. I tried a few different recipes last night and landed on the sauce below. The actual bread pudding is an adaption from Emeril's recipe, and the sauce takes his Bourbon cream sauce and adds it to a caramel sauce, which ended up close to perfect.

New Orleans Bread Pudding
(Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagassee)

8 eggs
2 c. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
¼ t. freshly grated nutmeg
2 t. vanilla extract
¼ c. Bourbon
4 c. half-and-half
1.5 loaves of French bread
1 c. raisins (optional)

Cut French bread into 1 inch pieces. Line a baking sheet with bread cubes and bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, or just until they are dried out—this is especially important if the bread is fresh (day old bread works best).

Combine eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, Bourbon, and half-and-half together in a large mixing bowl. Add cooled bread cubes and raisins to the mixture, and soak for 2 hours. Stir once in while so everything gets coated and soaked.

Pour the bread mixture into a buttered 9X13” baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes, watching that the sides and bottom don’t get burned, but the center is firm and set. Let cool on the counter for 5-10 minutes before serving. Cut into serving squares and top with creamy caramel sauce.

Creamy Caramel Sauce

1 c. heavy cream
1 c. half-and-half cream
2 t. vanilla
3 T. sugar
1 T. cornstarch
2 T. bourbon

Heat the cream, half-and-half, vanilla and sugar in a saucepan over high heat, whisking for 3 minutes. Dissolve the cornstarch in the Bourbon. As soon as the cream mixture starts to boil, add the Bourbon mixture and whisk vigorously while it boils for one minute. Lower heat so it simmers, and whisk until it’s thoroughly blended and slightly thickened. Set aside and immediately start on caramel sauce.

1 c. sugar
½ c. corn syrup
½ c. butter, room temperature

Combine sugar and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly just until the sugar is dissolved and melted. Stop stirring as soon as that happens and continue to cook (no stirring) until the mixture is a light golden brown. Remove from heat and shock the saucepan in an ice bath quickly to stop the pan from cooking, but remove it instantly so it doesn’t cool too much. Quickly whisk in the butter until combined, and then add the Bourbon cream mixture, whisking over low heat until it is all combined and smooth.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Stacy's Granola

My adorable friend Stacy Hansen moved to New Jersey and she loves to bring her girls to DC for overnight visits and they stay in our guest rooms. One day she brought me a jar full of granola to thank me, and it honestly was the best gift in the world because I've now used this recipe dozens of times over the last couple of years. It's the best granola I've ever had.

My favorite thing to do with it is put it with greek yogurt and fresh berries. Or in the summer time when peaches or blueberries are in season, I just put it with fresh fruit and milk. It's also nice to have in a container at work so you can munch on it here and now to fill your belly. And boy, just a little bit helps to make you full for a really long time!

Stacy Hansen's Granola

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Mix together in a large bowl:

8 cups oats
½ cup UNSWEETENED coconut (flakes or shredded)
2 T. ground flax
T. flax seed 
2 T. chia seeds 
1 cup chopped raw almonds
1 cup chopped raw walnuts or pecans

Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together:

2/3 cup coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
1 cup honey
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp salt

Pour wet ingredients over dry.  If you want the oat mixture to be coated evenly mix with your hands for 2-3 minutes.  Spread equal parts of the granola onto two jellyroll pans and cook for 15-25 minutes. Depending on how you like your granola (crunchy or sticky).  Stir granola after 10 minutes in the oven.  Cook for 5 more minutes and stir, then cook 5 minutes and stir, then one last time cook for 5 minutes and take out of oven to cool.  I usually stir it in the pan every once in a while as it cools, so it doesn’t cool in one big chunk.  It will still break a part but it can be messy.