Last week I was hanging out with this darling girl, Miss Abby Mangerson.
Abby is 4, a wild child and I whole-heartedly love her for it. We were playing her most recent favorite imaginary game, puppy and owner, (she loves to pretend that she is Ophelia, my actual 8-month old black lab mix puppy in her living room) and she asked me about this heart necklace that I wear almost everyday.
Photo: Elizabeth Dondis Photography
I told her that it was actually a cake pull from my sister Ruthie’s wedding in New Orleans last fall. As the southern tradition goes, all of the most important women in Ruthie’s life got to pull out a charm from her wedding cake and each charm has it’s own special meaning. I pulled out the heart, which means “true love”. At this point Abby was resting her head on my lap (something my actual puppy rarely calms down enough to do) and said with a sigh “Oh! I just love true love”. I couldn't help but smile at her sweet naivete and said, “You know what Abby? I do too.”
And I do. I wear that necklace to remind myself that yes, that mushy love stuff does still exist, but also to hold onto my time in New Orleans.
Photo: Me and my sisters in the photo booth at Ruth and Michael's wedding
That week combined just about all of my favorite things rolled into one: my family, food, and New Orleans. I go to Nola at least once a year to visit my baby sister, Meredith, and you would think by the way I eat whenever I go down for a visit, that I'm preparing for hibernation. With Ruthie's wedding covering two days of meals, I obviously needed to extend my trip so that I would have time to cover all of my favorite spots and still have time to try a few more new places that Mer had discovered since my last visit. To really get the full New Orleans experience, you've got to have your game face on. There are cocktails at Cure, dinner at Clancy’s, beers at The Bulldog, music on Frenchman Street, oysters at Casamento's , shrimp po' boys at Frank and Johnny’s, runs in Audubon Park, lunch at St. James Cheese Company and for dessert there is bread pudding just about everywhere. My most recent try was at Arnaud’s and it was simply heavenly.
With New Orleans a plane ride away, I've been itching to try making bread pudding at home and was thrilled to find an apple bread pudding recipe to fit into this week’s ingredient, apples. This recipe is sinfully good and it took every ounce of self-control not to immediately dig into it last night before photographing it. Serve it with a healthy dollop of homemade whipped cream or just dig into with a spoon (we won’t judge).
P.S. Check out what our fellow bloggers posted wiht apples this week after the recipe!
Apple and Maple Bread Pudding
by Stephania Stanley (adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2010)
What you need:
For the custard:
- 6 large eggs
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp cinnamon (I used my special Vietnamese cinnamon)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tbsp apple brandy (I used Harvest Spirit's Apply Brandy)
- 1 loaf pain rustique (I used ciabatta and it worked great), all crusts trimmed, and sliced into 1-inch cubes (6 1/2 - 7 cups)
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 5 medium sized Granny Smith Apples, cored, peeled, and sliced to 1/3" thick slices
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, plus additional for brushing
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
What you do:
For the custard:
In a large mixing bowl whisk together eggs. Add maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and sea salt. Whisk to mix together. Add milk, cream, and brandy and whisk until well blended (you'll see the color shift quickly from a milky brown to a darker brown). Add bread cubes and gently press down to fully submerge into custard. Let them soak for at least 30 minutes, occasionally pressing them down so that all bread cubes are equally submerged.
For the apples:
While your bread cubes are soaking, preheat your oven to 350°F and position oven rack in the bottom third of oven. Butter a 9x5-inch glass or ceramic loaf pan. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat (keep an eye on it as butter tends to brown rather quickly). Add apple slices and saute until apples begin to soften and turn golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup maples syrup and then brown sugar. Simmer until mixture thickens to syrup, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Gently mix half of apple slices into bread custard mixture. Pour into loaf pan. Arrange remaining apples slices on top in two vertical rows. Mine was overflowing a little bit here, so I took a few bread cubes out to make room. Pour remaining syrup over the top.
Bake for about 1 1/2 hours with a rimmed cookie sheet underneath to catch any drippings. Bread pudding should puff and crack on top and the apples should become a deep brown. Remove from oven and let it rest for about an hour. Brush apples with additional maple syrup. This can be served warm (my personal preference) or at room temperature (was also good this morning as a little amuse bouche).
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