Chai Spiced Bread Pudding with Easy Caramel Sauce

By Michele L.

  • Step 1: someone says they don’t like bread pudding. 
  • Step 2: someone is served delicious, well made bread pudding
  • Step 3: person now loves bread pudding. 

Bread pudding is an unsung hero of the dessert world. It almost never gets the credit it deserves. It’s simple, it’s satisfying, and it brings a sparkle to your eye.

Ok, I might be exaggerating a little on that last bit, but you catch my drift. I love making bread pudding, and that’s probably because it’s a perpetual family favorite. To the point that my dad requested it any time an occasion called for something sweet. (His birthday, Thanksgiving, a Tuesday) But he always wanted it plain. I was maybe allowed to put walnuts in it. Maybe. But the great thing about bread pudding is that it can be a vehicle for all kinds of different flavors. For this recipe, I decided to use chai tea and its accompanying spices; the bold flavors can stand up to any variety of bread.

Speaking of bread, this recipe is a great way to use up leftover bread. (stale = better) For instance, we we’re working on a post (coming soon!) about different kinds of toast. And those nine varieties of toast called for three different kinds of bread. So here I was with 2/3 of three different loaves. The solution, of course, was bread pudding. So we mixed up cubes of sourdough, whole wheat, and pumpernickel bread, covered it in custard, and voila! I was no longer stuck making sandwiches for the rest of time. 

The custard is the key to a sumptuous, moist bread pudding. But to insure the custard turns out perfect, you need to do something called tempering the eggs. It sounds complicated but is actually pretty easy. Tempering is the process of gently bringing the eggs up to the same temperature as whatever you’re mixing them into, in this case it’s the milk and cream. First, you slowly pour a small amount of the warm mixture into the eggs while whisking, then you can pour the eggs right back into the warm milk. Tempering insures that you get a pot full of smooth custard rather than pot full of sweet scrambled eggs. No one wants sweet scrambled eggs. And if you do want sweet scrambled eggs, I’ve got questions 

In my opinion, a great bread pudding needs a great sauce. This easy caramel sauce takes a little while to come together, but the process is almost totally hands off. You place a sealed can of sweetened condensed milk in a slow cooker full of water and let it cook on low. (just make sure you check to make sure the can is always covered with water) The slow and low process allows the milk to caramelize in the can. No stirring or whisking or temperature checking: it’s basically magic. Add a pinch of sea salt if you’re feeling fancy. 

And just like that, you’ve got a dessert that’s much more than the sum of its humble parts. I guarantee it’ll be a sweet and tasty hit. 

Ingredients

  • 16 slices stale bread (it can be different kinds)
  • 1/2 C butter, melted
  • 2 C milk
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • ¾ C sugar
  • 4 chia tea bags
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • Easy caramel sauce (recipe below) 
  • Optional: vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat over to 350° Tear/slice bread into bite size cubes. Toss bread cubes with melted butter and put into a 9×13 inch baking dish (glass or ceramic is best)
  2. In a sauce pan combine milk, cream, and sugar and heat on medium flame until just boiling. Remove from heat and add tea bags. Let steep for 20 minutes and remove bags, squeezing to get out all the liquid.
  3. Whisk eggs together in medium sized bowl. Slowly stream ½ cup milk mixture into eggs, whisking until combined.
  4. Add egg mixture back into milk and cream, add vanilla and spices and whisk until combined and smooth.
  5. Pour custard over bread and push down until all the cubes are saturated. Cover with foil and rest in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, longer or overnight if possible.
  6. Remove pan from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake for 30 minutes covered with foil, then remove foil and bake for 30 additional minutes or until pudding is toasty and brown.
  7. Drizzle with caramel sauce, serve with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

Easy Caramel Sauce

Remove label from one 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk. Place sealed can into slow cooker, cover with water and cook for 8 hours on low, then remove can with tongs. Make sure to check the slow cooker from time to time to make sure the can is still covered with water. Allow can to sit until it is cool enough to handle. Open can and spoon contents into bowl, then whisk in ½ cup heavy cream until sauce is a pourable consistency.  Store leftover sauce in an airtight container for up to 2-3 weeks. 

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