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Giving Thanks, with Pumpkin Bread Pudding

You know, I can do much more than cupcakes. In fact, cupcakes are the most recent addition to my kitchen. Sometimes I miss the chewiness of a cookie, the building of a bar, or the swirling of brownie batter; but in this world, you have to do what customers ultimately want, and shell out the money for, and currently, that's cupcakes.

I decided this year for Thanksgiving I would recreate a dish I originally made for Thanksgiving 2009: Pumpkin Bread Pudding. I can't remember what I put in it back then, but it was the last Thanksgiving we had with my grandmother, Mum, and she couldn't get enough of it. I also wanted to get back to my B.C. (before Cupcakes) roots, and bread pudding is always a crowd pleaser. I'll be honest I also wanted to make sure I could still do things other than cupcakes! But what to put inside it? I've never been a fan of nuts in desserts (unless it's Mom-Mom's famous Carrot Cake), so I decided not to include them unless someone specifically requested it. Apples? Raisins? Cranberries? Liquer? White Chocolate? The list went on a little more than that, but I ultimately decided on raisins soaked in brandy over night, and white chocolate chunks, along with a brandy caramel sauce. Sounds good doesn't it? I was excited!

So the process to bread pudding, starts with the pumpkin bread. The recipe my family has had, we've become pretty famous for in our social circles. So moist, perfectly spiced, it really makes it feel like Fall to me. I usually try not to eat it until October 1, or the first cold day, but this year, 3 days from December, we still haven't received our first "cold front" (which for Miami is 65 degrees or lower), so I broke my own unofficial rule nearly 2 months ago. Pumpkin bread is the main source of sustenance in our house October through December, and even the first few days into January :)

I've gone off on a tangent, I know, I know, I do that. Okay, back to the bread pudding.

So you cube and dry out the bread just as you would for stuffing, or you can dry it out in the oven at anywhere betwen 200-225 degrees for about an hour or so. Once that's done, you make the custard with eggs, egg yolks, heavy cream, vanilla, and brandy (or rum, whiskey, or bourbon, just please no tequila or vodka!). I then saw the egg nog in my fridge and remembered a cinnamon roll bread pudding I had made years ago with it-- YOINK! I poured in a generous amount of egg nog, sprinkled in some cinnamon and nutmeg, added the bread cubes, and let them sit and bathe in the deliciousness for about 40 minutes. I tossed in the white chocolate chunks and raisins (that had been soaking in brandy for the last 12 hours), tossed them all around and poured everything into a 13x9 pan, and into the oven it went.

As it was baking I started on making my (from scratch) caramel sauce. It's SO EASY and SO MUCH BETTER (and cheaper!) than anything from a jar. Melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, cream, and I decided to add some brandy as well. Finally I added some powdered sugar just to thicken it a bit, and it was done, and perfect, exactly what I was going for!

So to assemble a perfect plate of bread pudding, for most people, ice cream has to be involved. However, I'm a purist when it comes to desserts like this. I like to really taste the crafting of the love that was baked into it. With a heavy drizzling of the brandy caramel sauce on top of a warmed piece, paired with the spices of the pumpkin, and moist raisins that nearly pop in your mouth, and the white chocolate thats melted just enough, oh it's like heaven. Bread pudding is definitely one of those desserts that doesn't get as much recognition as it deserves.

When I placed it on the Thanksgiving table, my cousins kept picking at it before we even ate dinner! They couldn't keep their hands out of it, and it hadn't even been warmed up yet, much less, the sauce wasn't with it. So I guess that was a good sign. Once it was officially served, as full as everyone was, it was definitely the single dessert on the table that inspired the most "ooooohs" and "ahhhhhhs", and on a day when we all think about the things we are blessed with, it definitely made one thankful for sugar

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