Stick to Your Guns Buns

So remember last week, when I dropped by the Little Bread Company innocently enough, just to buy a loaf of their ciabatta, only to be distracted by their glistening pecan sticky buns on display in the pastry case, taunting me with their toasty, sugared pecans and sticky, chewy sweet dough? Well, I bought a couple more this week. And no, I didn’t gorge on them while loafing on the couch watching Millionaire Matchmaker – I gorged on them after I upped the proverbial ante: I made them into bread pudding.

What started as something pleasantly decadent turned into something perversely indulgent. I started by cutting the sticky buns into large cubes and laying them in a single layer in a medium sized baking dish. I whipped up a simple custard, which consists merely of sugar, cream, milk and eggs. To compliment the toasty pecans, I flavored the custard with a little Jack Daniels and some vanilla extract.

In order to get bread pudding’s consistency just right, it’s important to let the bread and custard sit a while, allowing the bread to soak up the custard before it goes into the oven. It even helps to gently press the bread cubes into the custard with your fingers. I let mine sit for about 20 minutes, long enough for the bread chunks to swell and get mushy. Yes, it looks like a soggy mess going in, but the results are well worth it.

A step in the baking process some may be unfamiliar with is a water bath. A water bath is used when a dish requires a moist, mild heat in order to achieve the right consistency. Water baths are most commonly used with custards, puddings and cheesecakes – cheesecakes will often crack and custards will become rubbery without it. The steps are simple: put the dish with the bread pudding inside a slightly larger dish, pour boiling water into the larger dish about halfway up the sides, and cover the whole thing with foil. Voilà – you’ve created a water bath, and your custard will reward you greatly for it.

While the pudding baked low and slow, I decided on a topping. Whipping cream is a process that is a well-practiced art for some, and most everyone seems to have their secrets. For me, the most important thing is to start with cold (and I mean COLD) cream and utensils. I stick my bowl and whisk in the freezer for a good 20 minutes before whipping the cream, and I don’t take the cream out of the fridge until the last possible second. The second thing is using powdered sugar as opposed to granulated sugar. Powdered sugar dissolves much more quickly into the cream, avoiding a grainy or crunchy texture. For this particular cream, I decided to add a few additional flavors besides the usual sugar and vanilla – a small pinch of cinnamon and a lil’ splash of Mr. Daniels perked it right up.

Needless to say, the bread pudding was over-the-top delicious. With its crunchy, browned top and silky, creamy center, its pecan flavors, bourbon scents, and its heady whipped cream, this was one dish that barely made it 24 hours in the fridge. Now… How many calories does an hour’s workout burn? Oh well… One more piece won’t kill me. Enjoy!

Pecan Sticky Bun Pudding with Cinnamon Bourbon Cream

Bread Pudding
2 Little Bread Co. Pecan Sticky Buns
2 c. heavy cream
2 c. whole milk
2 eggs
6 egg yolks
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. Kentucky bourbon
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°. Slice the sticky buns into cubes and place in a 9×13 ceramic or glass baking dish. In a medium bowl or in a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, egg yolks and sugar until light yellow. Add the bourbon and vanilla and whisk to combine. Pour custard mixture over sticky buns and gently press down, pressing custard into sticky buns. Allow to sit for 20 minutes.

Prepare a water bath by boiling 4 cups of water and placing baking dish inside a larger baking dish or pan. Carefully pour boiling water into larger dish, to about halfway up the sides. Cover the larger dish with foil, being careful not to touch it to the pudding. Cut several holes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake for 45 minutes with the foil on, then remove foil and continue to bake an additional 45 minutes, until custard is puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool 15 minutes. Serve warm with Cinnamon Bourbon Cream.

Cinnamon Bourbon Cream

1 c. heavy cream, chilled
3 Tbs. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. Kentucky bourbon
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Chill mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for 20 minutes. In a medium bowl and using a handheld mixer, or in a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, combine ingredients and beat at high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

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