Pumpkin Bread Pudding this Holiday Season


So many pumpkins, so little baking time.

I love bread pudding. I am haunted by the smell of that cinnamon laced, raisin-laden, custardy treat and have been since my childhood, when my mother often made this warm and comforting dish. I had no idea, as a child, that mom did so because it was a super affordable dessert to make for us kids, clamoring for sweets during a Reagan-era recession.

Affordable and easy to make, all you really need for a basic bread pudding is some stale (or toasted fresh bread), a few eggs, some milk, sugar and spice and you have a delectable dessert for the whole family.

Over the years I have experimented with my bread pudding recipe and created quite a high brow repertoire using ingredients like currants instead of raisins, pannetone or croissants in place of week old white bread. I have added chunks of dagoba chocolate, flecks of lavendar and lemon rind. I have also topped it with homemade ice cream — hard, chocolate and caramel sauces and savored the tart juxtaposition of raspberry liquor poured straight atop a deep, dark chocolate bread pudding.

But for this time of year when the comfort food reigns — I remain simple in my offerings with this straight-forward pumpkin version, topped with fresh whipped cream and maple candied pecans.

Best of all, it’s delish for breakfast the next day. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding w/candied maple pecans and whipped cream

1 15 oz of mashed or canned pumpkin
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 loaf lightly toasted and torn into pieces Challah
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
¼ cup of butter
2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Tear or cube the bread of your choice into small pieces (if you would like add raisins, dried cranberries or currents to the bread, put into a buttered or greased casserole or large baking dish and set aside. Be sure that whatever dish you choose can fit easily inside a larger baking pan filled halfway with water for baking. Slightly beat eggs just until mixed not foamy and set aside. Put butter, milk and cream in a saucepan and heat until butter is melted and milk mixture is heated but not scalded- set aside. Cool to lukewarm. In a large bowl pour pumpkin, milk and butter mixture, sugars, salt, spices, vanilla and eggs- whisk together. Pour mixture into the bread taking care to fold the bread and pumpkin mixture together to coat all pieces of bread. Set the larger pan in the oven on the rack and then place the baking dish with mixture inside the larger pan. Using a tea kettle or large pour measuring cup, carefully pour hot or boiling water, into the larger pan (be sure not to get water in the bread pudding) until the larger pan is half full. Carefully slide pans back into the oven making sure not to dump the hot water into the pudding or onto your self. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Candied Maple Toasted Pecans (or walnuts)

Heat a small skillet and dry toast 1 cup roughly chopped pecans continuing to move the nuts so they do not burn (about 1 minute) add ½ teaspoon of butter let it melt as you continue to stir the nuts into the butter- take care that it does not brown, add 3 Tbsp of dark maple syrup and continue to stir mixture as syrup bubbles and carmelizes onto pecans. Once mixture has thickened and nuts are coated remove from heat and let cool on a plate.

Serve pumpkin bread pudding warm or cold with fresh whipped cream and topped with candied pecans.

Yields: 8-12 servings

Katy Perry: A Visual Feast for your Foodie Eyes

I have to admit I wasn’t much of a Katy Perry fan. At first, I judged her as just another teen queen coming down the pike. Her first hit, “I Kissed a Girl,” I felt was not shocking in the least, with it’s revelations about the taste of cherry lip balm and anyway, quirky 90’s balladeer, Jill Sobule, already covered that territory. “Been there done that, ” I thought.

Even Rosie the Riveter would approve

But then Katy started showing up at awards shows dressed so retro-gurly cute (I know it sounds vapid — I swear I’m a feminist!) that I just couldn’t look away. I loved her sense of style and her tongue-in-cheek behavior. Her videos had that same feel, a return to glamor with a touch of Lucille Ball and a heap of ball-breaker Bust gal mentality. Still, living in a ultra-feminist city (Portland, OR) home of the last non-profit feminist bookstore in the country, surrounded by Rosie the Riveter wannabes, I couldn’t help but feel like I would be shunned. I kept my curiosity about Ms. Perry on the DL, as they say. Then came “California Gurls.”

Katy Perry baking up treats in California Gurls

I first heard it on the radio and honestly, at first blush, I didn’t think much of it but then I saw the video. I was both kind of horrified (at the cherry topped cupcake bras and whip cream canisters bazzooms) and thrilled by it. But as I found myself sneaking off to YouTube to watch the video again, like a late night raid of the fridge, I realized I wasn’t really horrified at all — I was sort of counter-culturally programmed to detest anything that objectified the female form. But this was different — I finally relented to my inner girlie pop goddess and “got it.” And while I’m sure someone like Camille Paglia is off writing a book about why and how Katy Perry is corrupting the girls of today — I have this to say, Bravo Katy Perry.

Those things are loaded weapons

Katy’s videos, persona and outfits are a sort of a Shangri-la for foodies, a feast for the eyes and in a culture obsessed with dieting yet trapped in a cycle of fast and fake foods, just looking at this stuff can, well, frankly, turn you on.

Katy Perry's Candy Wonderland

Herein lies Katy Perry’s genius — she is a cultural lightening rod. Her songs are catchy pop perfection laced with saccharin sweet vocals, urging you further with ripe innuendo, stunningly luscious visuals and bubbly beats. She “gets it,” and she lets you in on the joke with sly grin and wink. Sure, we gals are still objectified, even in this day and age, but Katy’s pulling the strings here with something for everyone. The whip cream canistered bazzooms may be a thrill for the men at home but the farce of it all cannot be missed either. By owning and taking it to over-the-top heights, she somehow manages to rescue female sexuality from the everyday drab of jeans and t-shirts.

Old World Glamor a la Katy Perry

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love jeans and a t-shirt (I practically live in them) but I also love to dress up in my knee-length, A-line cherry-print dress with matching cardigan, roll my hair, glue on the false eyelashes and punctuate it all with bright red lipstick and my vintage candy-apple-red purse. I also like to be taken seriously, even if I’m showing some cleavage.

Serious Sucker - Katy Perry

I guess that’s what speaks to me about Perry’s style and music, the ability to have choice. Isn’t that what our foremothers fought for? For women to be able to choose what they wanted whether it’s to stay home with the kids or work in the world (or both), to be taken seriously in the boardroom and objectified in the bedroom, to map your own destiny based on your own unique tastes for life?

The whole world's a candy store

To top it all off, Perry is unabashed about flaunting her love of food, especially the sweet stuff. She wears it, eats it, dives into it — not always considered ladylike behavior folks. But there are close ties between sensuality, food and sexuality and Katy doesn’t miss that.

Cake DIVE!

Visuals aside, I still would not laud her, if I thought her music was garbage. Her latest album Teenage Dream, in which Perry lies beautifully nude, atop a bed of fluffy pink cotton candy, looking every bit the 1950’s pin-up, is a stellar pop work.

Cotton Candy Cloud Goddess, Katy Perry

On the title track, she sings of going, “all the way tonight, no regrets, just love,” shedding both the old puritanical baggage of “good girls don’t do it” and the overly sexed-up, “girls can do this casual sex thang too,” leaving her younger listeners with a pendulum that is clearly wavering in the middle. Because casual sex may seem exciting but as anyone who’s ever been in love can tell you, it’s so much better when you’re in love.

Katy and Russell in love.

Though some have criticized Perry’s work as just a rehash of others that came before her, overall the album does something that few other albums of late have done for me, it brings me back to my youth. A youth spent in John Hughes painted, bubble gum belly of the 80’s, wearing neon-colored t-shirts, a slew of rubber bracelets up my arms and candy-colored jelly shoes on my feet, bouncing to the jitterbug of Wham and collecting sugary scented Hello Kitty erasers and pencils. Teenage Dream has obvious influences from the likes of Madonna and even evokes thoughts of Pat Benatar on grittier ball-buster songs like, Circle the Drain.

Peacock dress, cupcake purse -- so Katy

The cheeky, “you show me yours,” anthem of Peacock flips the roles in the pressure-for-sex dynamic and Perry’s staccato chant of, “Peacock-cock-cock,” sounds reminiscently of Tony Basil’s Mickey.

Perry’s album is chock-o-block with delectable treats that will leave even the most ardent foodie satiated. Perry, in the centerfold of the album’s sleeve, is adorned as Princess Cupcake and looking a bit like a naughty Glinda the Good Witch, surrounded by teetering stacks of brightly buttercream frosted cakes and YES! just like Kitty, My Melody and the Little Twin Stars, the jacket is scented like cotton candy.

It's Katy's world, you're just a kid trying to get a cone