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7 cups (about 9 ounces) cubed leftover bread (brioche and challah are nice)
6 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 cup half and half, cream, or milk
15-ounce can pears in light syrup
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a Polish stoneware shallow fluted bowl, or a 9" x 13" baking dish.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the milk and half and half, continuing to whisk.
Stir the bread into the egg mixture, using a large spoon or spatula to mix everything together until the bread is thoroughly coated. Let stand for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Drain the pears, reserving the syrup for another use if desired. Cut the pears into 1" pieces. Cut the dried apricots into slivers. (Scissors sprayed with a little non-stick vegetable oil spray work well here.)
Fold all the fruit into the bread-custard mixture and pour it into the baking pan. Bake for 50 minutes (for the 9" x 13" pan) to 60 minutes (for the Polish dish), until the pudding is puffed, lightly browned, and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the pudding cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Drizzle with caramel sauce and serve with ice cream, if desired. Yield: 12 servings.