Kris Kringle Bread Pudding
To make vanilla sugar, place vanilla beans and sugar in an airtight container; let stand one week, shaking occasionally.
- Yield: Makes 2 puddings, each serves 6
Photography: Bryan Gardner
- Unsalted butter, softened, for bowls
- 3/4 cups vanilla sugar or granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 1/3 cups Armagnac or other brandy
- 7 ounces assorted dried fruit, such as peaches, apricots, and pears
- 7 ounces pitted prunes
- 5 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups half and half
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and seeds scraped to loosen
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 12 large egg yolks
- 2 large loaves day-old brioche (1 pound each), cut into 1 1/4-inch cubes
- Sour Lemon Sauce, for serving
Brush two 1 1/2-quart ovenproof bowls with butter, and sprinkle with vanilla sugar; tap out excess. Bring Armagnac, dried fruit, and prunes to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fruit has softened and absorbed the liquid, about 10 minutes. Coarsely chop fruit.
Bring cream, half and half, vanilla sugar, cinnamon, vanilla beans and seeds, and zest to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Lightly beat egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisking constantly, gradually ladle half the hot-cream mixture into the yolks. Pour yolk mixture into saucepan with remaining cream mixture. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly and scraping sides of pan, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Pass custard through a fine sieve into a large bowl; discard solids.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In another large bowl, combine brioche cubes and chopped fruit, reserving 1/2 cup fruit. Pour in custard; toss to combine. Divide bread mixture between prepared bowls. Top each with half the reserved fruit. Sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Place a parchment round in water to dampen and transfer to top of pudding bowl to cover. Use a rubber band to secure, and tie with kitchen twine. Repeat process with second bowl. Let stand until bread has soaked up liquid, about 20 minutes.
Set bowls in deep roasting pan. Transfer pan to oven; add enough boiling water to come 3 inches up sides of bowls. Bake 1 hour. Uncover; bake until set, about 30 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature, with sour lemon sauce. Puddings can be refrigerated up to 3 days; let cool completely before covering with plastic wrap. If desired, reheat in a 350-degree oven, just until warm.