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Pumpkin adds seasonal twist to bread pudding

In a season traditionally filled with good things to eat, let’s add another entry to the dessert table, shall we? I’m talking about bread pudding. Now, here is a dish that radiates nostalgia. Once eaten mainly by the poor to use up stale bread, bread pudding is now considered comfort food extraordinaire.

While we all love classic bread pudding, this one is different. This recipe offers a twist on ordinary bread pudding that elevates it to holiday-worthy status. We’re adding pumpkin puree and warm spices to the bread pudding and topping it with a velvety caramel pecan praline sauce to create bread pudding that’s bursting with intense flavors and aromas of the season. If pumpkin pie and bread pudding had a baby, it would be this.

Don’t reserve this recipe only for Thanksgiving because it makes any day a special occasion. Bread pudding can be served warm or cold and for dessert, breakfast, brunch or snack. It’s also perfect to bring to a potluck or make as a gift for friends and neighbors.

As always, my recipes are developed with low cost in mind. In this spirit, I’ve omitted the heavy cream found in most bread pudding recipes and replaced it with a can of evaporated milk to add creamy richness. Please note - I’m using evaporated milk, not sweetened condensed milk. You’ll use part of the can of evaporated milk in the pudding and the remainder in the sauce.

Part of the frugal appeal of this recipe is that it uses stale bread. Use any kind of bread you find on the “oops, we baked too much” rack. You can use loaves of breads like French, Italian or artisan breads. You can also use bolillo rolls, baguettes, challah, croissants, doughnuts or even cinnamon rolls.

Here’s a great tip - keep a large zip-top bag in the freezer to save up bits of leftover breads. You can even throw in slightly stale doughnuts, cinnamon rolls or bagels, too. When you’ve collected enough, you can use them to make breadcrumbs, stuffing or, you guessed it, bread pudding.

Bread pudding is a stellar example of simple ingredients coming together to make something greater than the sum of their parts.

As I was making this, my niece suggested that since pumpkin is a vegetable and the pudding is mostly bread and eggs, she should be able to have it for dinner. Of course, I said yes. I’m the cool auntie.

There will be plenty of time for eating properly. Tomorrow.

PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING

What you’ll need:

1 1-pound loaf day old bread

2 cups milk or half and half

¾ cup evaporated milk

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons melted butter

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Here’s how:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-by-13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Slice or tear the bread into small pieces and place them in the baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together the half and half, evaporated milk, pumpkin, sugars, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Carefully pour this custard mixture over the bread pieces in the baking dish. Lightly press the bread down until it’s completely covered in the custard mixture.

Let this rest for about 15 minutes to let the custard soak all the bread pieces. Bake in your preheated oven for 50 minutes to an hour or until set and browned.

While the bread pudding is baking, make the praline sauce.

EASY PECAN PRALINE SAUCE

What you’ll need:

1¼ cups light brown sugar

¾ cup evaporated milk

1 tablespoon butter

Pinch salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup chopped pecans

Here’s how:

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the brown sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt. Cook, stirring the sauce until it is syrupy and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla and pecans. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Pour over bread pudding to serve.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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