Banana Walnut Bread Pudding With Butterscotch-Banana Sauce

From the Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Cookbook

Serves 8 to 10

During one of the early days after we first opened the Blue Ribbon Market, we got it in our heads to fill the display shelves with a variety of our gorgeous homemade breads. We soon realized that we had grossly underestimated our shelf space. We had to make hundreds of loaves to make it look full—way more than we could sell.
As if on cue, a French chef (who shall remain nameless) walked into the crazy Bromberg brothers’ bread extravaganza and said he wanted to buy some loaves of white bread to make bread pudding. We were surrounded by baguettes and feeling somewhat frustrated. “You’re welcome to take any bread you want,” we told him. And he looked at us, horrified, saying, “No, no, I need pain de mie!” He walked out, disgusted that we didn’t have the proper pullman white bread for bread pudding.
As soon as he left we decided to prove him wrong. We started cutting up all those baguettes and folded the pieces into the custard we had made for crème brûlée. Then we played around and added different flavorings to different batches (banana walnut turned out to be our favorite), and cooked it all in a water bath. While baking, our puddings smelled sweet, yeasty, and eggy, and they came out golden brown, crunchy on the outside and custardy smooth on the inside. We haven’t used a traditional bread pudding recipe since.

1 vanilla bean
11 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 quart heavy cream
1 (12-ounce) baguette or other white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups)
1 pound bananas, peeled and sliced ½-inch thick (2 to 4 bananas)
¾ cup chopped walnuts, toasted (see Note, page 111)
Butterscotch-Banana Sauce (page 167)

1 Using a small, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a bowl; reserve the pod. Add the egg yolks and ¾ cup of the sugar and whisk until thick and yellow (whisk the mixture immediately to prevent the sugar from “cooking” the eggs).

2 In a medium pot, combine the cream, the remaining ¼ cup sugar, and the reserved vanilla bean pod. Bring the cream to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Immediately remove from the heat; discard the pod. Whisking constantly, pour a small amount of the cream into the egg yolk mixture. Add the rest, a little at a time, until the cream is fully incorporated. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. You can make the custard up to 1 day ahead and store it, covered, in the refrigerator.

3 Grease a 9 × 13-inch baking pan. Combine the bread, bananas, and walnuts in the pan, making sure everything is well distributed. Pour in just enough custard mixture to completely cover the bread (you may have some leftover; save it). Let stand for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour (or let it rest overnight in the refrigerator). If the bread absorbs all the custard, top it off with a little more. Then firmly press the bread down into the custard so it’s submerged.

4 Preheat the oven to 350°F.

5 Cover the pan with foil. Place the pudding pan in a larger pan, adding just enough hot water to the larger pan to come halfway up the sides of the pudding pan. Bake until the pudding is lightly set and a knife inserted in the center comes out almost clean, 1 to 1½ hours. The pudding may be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and reheated to serve. Before serving, drizzle
with the Butterscotch-Banana Sauce.

Blue Ribbon Wisdom
Variations Bread pudding can take on a lot of forms. If you love fruit, you can make it with fruit; if you love chocolate, you can make it with chocolate; if you love walnuts and candied ginger . . . The banana and chocolate versions are the most popular, so we always have them on the menu. But we still like to come up with new flavors, and they’ve all been well received—especially rum raisin, apple and dried cherry, and even a version with lychee, which is a great complement to the menu at Blue Ribbon Sushi. So let your taste buds be your guide, and come up with your own house favorite.

White Chocolate Butterscotch with bananas
Makes about 3 cups

We took an old-fashioned butterscotch recipe and added a little white chocolate.
The result? The white chocolate softens the bitterness of the caramel and brings
a luscious creamy texture to the sauce. Bananas make the perfect partner, but if you
don’t have any ripe ones around, you can leave them out. Serve this over ice cream,
pound cake, or sliced fruit. Or eat it directly off the spoon!

½ cup sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 pound plus 2 ounces finely chopped white chocolate (see Blue Ribbon Wisdom, page 150)
2 bananas, diced

1 In a heavy skillet, combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons water over medium
heat. Cook, tilting the pan occasionally so that the sugar cooks evenly, until
the sugar turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let
darken to a deep, nutty brown.

2 Carefully pour in the cream (it will splatter). Return the sauce to the heat and
cook, stirring, until the sugar melts again and the mixture is smooth. Bring to a

3 Put the white chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl. Pour the hot cream mixture
over the chocolate and stir until the sauce is smooth. Stir in the bananas and
cook, stirring, until heated through. Keep covered in the refrigerator for up to
1 week and reheat to serve.

Excerpted from Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Cookbook by Bruce Bromberg, Eric Bromberg, and Melissa Clark; Photographs by Quentin Bacon Copyright © 2010 by Bruce Bromberg, Eric Bromberg, and Melissa Clark; Photographs by Quentin Bacon. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.