Saturday, February 5, 2011

Piña Colada Bread Pudding with Rum Whipped Cream

Imagine you're on a pristine white sand beach.  A warm breeze rustles through your hair.  Sunlight warms your skin as you recline on a hammock.  The clear turquoise water laps at the shoreline as the scent of the sea and suntan lotion permeates the air.  An attractive waiter appears and asks if there is anything he can get you.  "Piña Colada," you respond.  It's the perfect cooling drink for this tropical oasis.  You snap out of this fantasy as the sound of a snowplow tears down your street.  It's snowing.  Again.

Enter February's Bread Pudding of the Month, a version utilizing all of the components in a traditional Piña Colada, but in warm and comforting bread pudding form.  Why am I teasing you with summer flavors in the middle of winter (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere)?  Because we all need to indulge in our little mid-winter fantasies.  Mine includes a trip far far away from the snow, slush, and generally ickiness.  To a place with ample amounts of Vitamin D, in the form of sunshine.  This recipe can easily be dairy-free if you omit the rum whipped cream and replace the butter for greasing the baking dish with a vegan alternative.  I haven't tried it, but I think coconut butter would be an obvious choice, but pan spray would work well too.

This creation took a couple attempts to get just right.  The first time I made the mistake of mixing the crushed pineapple directly into the rest of the custard ingredients and pouring it over bread cubes.  The crushed pineapple formed a layer over the top of the bread and basically stifled the bread pudding, not allowing it to brown at all, and resulting in a really soggy, poor-textured dish.  The flavors were good, but the texture was unpleasant.  Straining the crushed pineapple and tossing it with the bread cubes (much like mixing raisins into a traditional bread pudding) not only distributes it a bit more evenly, but it allows for that great crust on top that is part of the textural attraction in a good bread pudding.  The pillowy rum-spiked cream elevates the dish even further, making this a perfect winter alternative to an icy Piña Colada.

Last month when I announced this exciting monthly adventure into the world of bread pudding, the lovely Maya at Foodiva's Kitchen expressed an interest in joining me and sharing a bread pudding recipe of her own to include in the Bread Pudding of the Month Club.  It is a club after all, so I'm thrilled to include her recipe in the vault of bread pudding exploration.  She's come up with a great Cinnamon-Tangerine Bread Pudding showcasing not only the current seasonality of tangerines and other citrus fruits, but also created this dish in honor of the Chinese New Year since tangerines represent good fortune.  Please check out her contribution to the Bread Pudding of the Month Club.  I hope to feature other guest submissions in the upcoming months as well :) Do you have a great bread pudding recipe you'd love to include in the club?  Email me and we'll discuss it!  Perhaps I will feature your submission in my next monthly bread pudding post!

Foodiva's Cinnamon-Tangerine Bread Pudding

Piña Colada Bread Pudding with Rum Whipped Cream 
Serves 10 to 12

Bread Pudding:
Unsalted butter, for baking dish
8 cups stale* 1/2-inch bread cubes (such as Italian, challah, or brioche)
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained well, and liquid reserved (should be about 1 cup juice)
3 eggs
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
1/4 cup dark rum

Rum Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 T. sugar
1 1/2 T. dark rum

Place the oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish. Toss the dry bread cubes with the crushed pineapple and arrange in the baking dish.

Whisk the eggs, light brown sugar, reserved pineapple juice (from crushed pineapple), coconut milk, and dark rum together in a large bowl. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread cubes in the baking dish, lightly pressing down with your hands and making sure that all the bread gets submerged and starts soaking in the custard.

Soak for 10 to 15 minutes and then put the baking dish in the oven. Bake until the filling is set and the top is lightly browned and crusted, about 45 to 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the heavy cream to medium peaks. Lightly beat in the sugar and rum to medium-stiff peaks. Serve the bread pudding warm or at room temperature with the rum whipped cream.

*If your bread isn't very stale, cut it into cubes and allow the bread cubes to dry out at room temperature all day or overnight. Alternatively, lightly toast them on a sheet pan in a 350 degree F oven until dry, about 10 to 15 minutes.


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