Cherry Ginger Bread Pudding
4 cups bread cubes (about 3/4 inch cube), slightly dry (a white artisan type is best)
1/2 cup tart dried cherries
3 large eggs
2 cups milk (or 1 cup milk and 1 cup half and half)
1/3 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, divided
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Using 1 tablespoon of the butter, grease a 2 quart baking dish. Place bread cubes in the dish and mix in the cherries so that there are some cherries throughout. In a mixing bowl combine milk, sugar, ginger, almond extract and salt. While stirring the mixture, pour over the bread and cherries. Press down the bread slightly to help it soak up the liquid. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into chunks and place randomly on top of the pudding. Bake in a water bath for 50 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the pudding comes out clean. Serve warm or chilled.
Hints: Using day old bread is perfect for this recipe. However if the bread is very dry, you may need to use a bit more milk and/or allow the mixture to soak for a half hour prior to cooking. Whole grain breads are nice but can be a wee bit heavy and this is already a rich dish. Stirring the egg/milk mixture while pouring it over the bread is important as the raw sugar has a tendency to settle to the bottom and if you don't stir it, you will end up with a glob of sugar on top of the pudding. A water bath is made by filling a larger baking dish or cake pan with about 1 inch of water then placing the bread pudding dish into the water. You can use chopped dried apricots in place of all or part of the cherries, or raisins are a good old tradition. You can replace the ginger with cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, or cloves--adjust amount as needed. A ginger, almond or vanilla sauce can be served over this pudding if it is not as moist as desired. Here is a link to white chocolate ginger sauce that would be great: http://wasatchmountainchef.blogspot.com/2009/08/souffles-are-tons-of-fun-to-serve-and.html
Bread pudding is a real comfort food for me. Creamy, sweet, smooth but with depth. This version has an added twist with the fresh ginger and seems to make it more summer appropriate to me. I like having it for breakfast. Or Lunch. Or after dinner!