Butternut Squash Bread Pudding

(Nov. 19, 2021) Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching and menu planning should be in full swing.

Tradition and innovation go hand in hand. Bread pudding is an easy, delicious way to celebrate the upcoming holiday. It is also a great way to use stale bread.

Contemporary versions of the casserole are breakfast, lunch, dinner, side, or dessert. Sweet or savory also add the incredible variance of this humble dish.

For those who have never made bread pudding, following are a few tips to ensure success.

The type of bread one chooses is crucial for the delectable texture that bread pudding is known for. In general, soft and airy breads such as Challah, French or Italian loafs are best suited for bread pudding.

No matter what type of bread you choose, it must be stale. If one has to make bread pudding on the spur of the moment, bake fresh bread at 300 degrees until dry.

If one desires a crackly crust, dot the top of the pudding with additional toasted bread cubes before baking.

Make sure the eggs are well beaten, this process helps the bread absorb the cream mixture. If eggs are not properly beaten, the bread pudding will have an eggy taste.

When I first made this dish, I used half-and-half. While the flavor profiles were good, it was a little dense. I remade the dish and used heavy whipping cream - what a difference. The interior had a moist, creamy consistency.

Bread pudding should be cooked for 50 to 60 minutes or until the center of the pudding reaches 160 degrees. Another way to tell if it is done is to simply insert a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, the bread pudding is ready to serve.

The consistency of finished bread pudding is slightly mushy and semi-solid. If the custard starts to break, it is a sign that the pudding is overcooked.

Sauces are sometimes served with bread pudding. This is a tasty additive, but make sure it does not overpower the actual pudding.

Heating up bread pudding can be tricky for the simple fact that it dries out easily. To reheat, preheat oven to 350 degrees and cook covered with foil for 5 to 15 minutes.

In closing, I had the pleasure of teaching a cooking class at Brandywine Living at Fenwick Island. Heather Cormack and staff were so gracious and made me feel at home.

But the most memorable moment were the “special ladies” that attended the class. Their enthusiasm and smiles made my day. Butternut squash bread pudding was on the menu and the ladies gave it thumbs up.

Thanksgiving is about sharing and being with family. Butternut squash’s natural sweetness and gorgeous color fits in with the theme of fall and is a creative way to enhance your feast.

If one is considering a new dish, you must give butternut squash bread pudding a try. Enjoy and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Butternut Squash Bread Pudding

Ingredients

7 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 ½-inch cubes

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus extra for garnishing

½ teaspoon black pepper, plus extra for garnishing

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small sweet onion, minced

3 large cloves garlic, minced

8 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk

4 cups heavy cream

1 ½ cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary

kosher salt to taste

14 ounces challah bread, cut into 1 ½-inch cubes

8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded plus extra for garnishing

2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnishing

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss squash, 3 tablespoons olive oil, nutmeg and black pepper in a medium bowl, make sure all ingredients are well coated. Place squash on a baking sheet and cook for 45 minutes or until tender.

Set aside. Reduce heat to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium sauté pan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 7 minutes.

3. Coat a 13-x-9-inch baking dish with non-flavored cooking spray. Whisk onions, garlic, eggs, cream, broth, mustard, thyme, rosemary and salt until well combined.

Add bread cubes, cooled squash, cheeses and mix until all bread cubes are fully soaked with the cream mixture. Spoon bread pudding into prepared dish; distribute any remaining liquid into the dish evenly. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

4. Garnish dish with a dusting of nutmeg, pepper, Gruyere and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Bake uncovered for 50 minutes or until the center is fully cooked. Insert a toothpick into the center of the bread pudding to ensure doneness. Allow to cool 15 minutes before serving.

Secret Ingredient – Giving. “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”

— Robert Louis Stevenson

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