Warm Washington Apple Bread Pudding

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2 large Granny Smith apples
1 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons, sugar, divided
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter, divided
3 cups whole milk
1 small vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup apple sauce
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
8 to 9 cups cubed day-old French bread (1 large loaf, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes)

1) Core, but don't peel the apples. Dice them and toss in a medium bowl with 1/2 cup of the sugar.

2) In a sauté pan, over low heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the apples and sugar. Cover and simmer the apples gently for 15 minutes until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and cook, stirring, over medium heat, for about 5 minutes until apples are lightly caramelized.

3) Meanwhile, place the milk in a large saucepan. Split the vanilla bean, with a small sharp knife, and add it to the milk. Bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat. Remove the vanilla bean, and use the knife to scrape the tiny black seeds into
the milk. NOTE: (Rinse the scraped bean under cold water and set it aside on a
paper towel to dry. When dry, add the bean to your storage canister of sugar to flavor the sugar). If using vanilla extract, add it to the hot milk.

4) Stir 1 cup of remaining sugar, the applesauce, cinnamon and nutmeg into the hot milk.

5) In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the eggs. Do not pour the milk in all at once as it may curdle the eggs.

6) Generously butter the inside of a shallow 9x13-inch baking pan, reserving remaining 3 tablespoons of butter.

7) Place the bread cubes in the pan, and spoon the caramelized apples evenly over the
bread.

8) Pour the custard over the bread and apples, and allow the bread to soak for 3
minutes to 1 hour in the refrigerator.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 ?.

9) Place the pudding baking pan in a larger roasting pan and carefully pour in enough hot water to reach half way up the sides of the baking pan. Dot the top of pudding with remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Place the roasting pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake for about 1 hour until the pudding is set and lightly browned on top.

Before serving, sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar over the pudding, and
place it under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, until the top is lightly caramelized. Serve the warm pudding topped with classic good vanilla ice cream.
 

Serves 12