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A Classic Holiday Dessert

Justin Fox Burks

My family’s recipe for New Orleans bread pudding is about as authentic as you get.

My Louisiana family has been making it for at least 3 generations, if not longer. It’s a Holiday tradition that we all love.

Ideally you should use day-old bread for bread pudding. The stale bread absorbs the custard goodness better then fresh bread. It is ok to use fresh bread in a pinch. I recommend lightly toasting fresh bread to dry it out a bit before adding to the custard. Being from New Orleans, our family traditionally uses French baguettes. Day-old brioche or croissants can be substituted for even richer bread pudding.

Do not be tempted to use skim or low-fat milk. This is not the dessert to be worried about cutting calories. Skim milk will make the custard too watery. Use 2% or, ideally, whole milk for the best results.

My grandmother always put raisins in the mix; so I do too. My father often adds diced apples. Not a fan of either of those fruits? Then just omit them.

My grandmother’s trick to a creamy and smooth whiskey sauce is to cook the sauce in a double boiler. Be sure to whisk the sugar and egg continuously to prevent the egg from curdling. It takes patience, but it is well worth it. I think this whiskey sauce may be my favorite part of the dish!

The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Simply reheat slowly in a double boiler before serving.

Hope the guests at your Holiday table enjoy this classic New Orleans dessert as much as we do. And one little tip … it’s delicious the next morning for breakfast too!

This is Jennifer Chandler with The Weekly Dish. Merry Christmas!

New Orleans Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

For the bread pudding:

  • Unsalted butter, to grease the baking dish
  • 1 loaf French bread (preferably at least a day old), cut in 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
  • 3 cups 2% or whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup raisins

For the whiskey sauce:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup bourbon whiskey

To prepare the bread pudding: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 X 13-inch baking dish with butter and set aside.

Place the bread in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In another large mixing bowl whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and orange zest. Pour the custard mixture over the bread and toss to coat evenly. Let stand until the bread has soaked up the custard, about 5 minutes. Gently stir the raisins into the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake until golden brown and set, about 35 to 45 minutes.

To prepare the whiskey sauce: In a double boiler, melt the butter. Add the sugar and egg, whisking continuously to prevent the egg from curdling. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the bourbon to taste. Remove from the heat and keep warm over the double boiler.

Serve the bread pudding warm with the sauce spooned over the top.

Serves 8.

Printed with permission from The Southern Pantry Cookbook by Jennifer Chandler.

Jennifer Chandler graduated at the top of her class from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She is a full-time mom to two daughters in Memphis, Tennessee, and is a freelance food writer, restaurant consultant, and author of four cookbooks The Southern Pantry Cookbook, Simply Salads, Simply Suppers, and Simply Grilling.