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Published August 09, 2009, 12:00 AM

Bread pudding or crisp? No need to choose with this dessert

The same week I discovered local blueberries were ready for picking, I scored a box of Colorado peaches. Fresh, plump blueberries and my favorite peaches in my kitchen at the same time is about as good as it gets.

By: Sue Doeden, Bemidji Pioneer

The same week I discovered local blueberries were ready for picking, I scored a box of Colorado peaches. Fresh, plump blueberries and my favorite peaches in my kitchen at the same time is about as good as it gets.

I started thinking about a warm, crunchy-topped blueberry-peach crisp peeking out from a big scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.

The person I most love to share desserts with was thinking bread pudding bursting with juicy blueberries and chunks of sweet peaches. I didn’t have the time to make two desserts. I certainly didn’t need to be eating double desserts. So I compromised with bread pudding covered with a blanket of crisp-like topping.

Traditional bread pudding recipes include a few simple ingredients that cooks usually have on hand: bread, milk, cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Then there’s a multitude of optional spices, fruits and nuts that can be stirred into the mixture before baking. Typically, bread pudding is a quick, simple and economical dessert, often referred to as comfort food. Lately I’ve noticed bread pudding showing up on restaurant menus, with adventurous chefs giving the dessert a hot new look and taste with the addition of ingredients like chocolate, bourbon, coconut milk, mangoes or bananas.

Blueberry Bread Pudding is a basic bread pudding. The baking dish full of oven-dried bread cubes, lots of rich milk, cream and eggs and blueberries sits in another pan of shallow hot water. This water bath helps the pudding bake evenly. The topping is sweet and crunchy, similar to the topping you’d find on any fruit crisp.

Peaches are peeled and sliced, then drizzled with honey and toasted under the broiler. They release sweet juices as they cook.

The Honey-Toasted Peaches topple over the creamy bread pudding studded with blueberries. It really is a match made in heaven.

Serve Blueberry Bread Pudding warm or cold, for breakfast, dessert or anything in between. Honey-Toasted Peaches can be served warm or cold. Of course, they are exquisite with Blueberry Bread Pudding. But since they can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, you may also want to try them with yogurt, on pancakes or waffles, on ice cream, or warm them up and serve them alongside some grilled pork or chicken. They are versatile.

One generous helping of Blueberry Bread Pudding with Honey-Toasted Peaches satisfies a craving for crisp and a yearning for bread pudding.

Blueberry Bread Pudding with Honey-Toasted Peaches

For the Bread Pudding:
11 ounces white bread, such as French baguette
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, divided
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1 pint fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes. No need to remove crust. You should have about 8 cups of bread cubes. Place bread cubes on a baking sheet, arranging in a single layer. Place in preheated oven and allow the bread to dry out. The bread should not get brown. It will take 30 to 45 minutes. Transfer dried bread cubes to a large bowl. Drizzle bread with melted butter. Toss until cubes are evenly coated with butter. Set aside.

Turn oven temperature up to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch glass baking dish.

Combine eggs, egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, whole milk, heavy whipping cream, honey, vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Whisk until thoroughly blended.

Arrange half of buttery bread cubes in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the blueberries. Add the remaining bread cubes and then the rest of the blueberries. Place the dish in a roasting pan. Slowly pour milk mixture over the top of the cubes. The liquid will come almost to the top of the baking dish. Use a rubber spatula to push the cubes into the liquid. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix remaining 1/4 cup sugar, brown sugar, rolled oats, nutmeg, remaining 2 teaspoons cinnamon and chopped pecans. Sprinkle topping over pudding mixture in baking dish.

Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil. Poke 2 small vent holes in opposite corners of the foil. Place roasting pan with the baking dish nestled into the center of it into the preheated oven. Pour boiling water into the pan until it comes one inch up the sides of the baking dish. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Carefully remove foil from baking dish. Bake 15 minutes longer to brown the topping. Bread pudding will be set. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Serve warm or cold, topped with Honey-Toasted Peaches and whipped cream. Store leftover Blueberry Bread Pudding, tightly covered, in the refrigerator. Makes 8 servings.

For the Honey-Toasted Peaches:
8 to 10 medium peaches
2 tablespoons honey
1 (3- to 4-inch) stick cinnamon
1 (3-inch) strip lemon zest

Half-fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Plunge peaches in batches of 2 into the water for 30 to 45 seconds. Remove peaches from boiling water and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Repeat process. Peel peaches. The skins will easily slip off. Cut each peach into 10 to 12 slices. Discard stone.

Preheat broiler to high. Butter a large baking sheet with sides. Arrange peach slices in a single layer on the prepared pan, along with cinnamon stick and lemon zest. Measure honey into a small bowl. Heat in a microwave for 5 to 10 seconds. Drizzle the warm honey over the peaches.

Broil peaches for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are soft and speckled with brown spots. Allow peaches to cool a bit on the pan. Transfer the peaches with their juices into a large bowl. At this point, peaches can be covered tightly and refrigerated for 2 to 3 days.

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