Bread Pudding w. Bourbon Pecans & Butterscotch

katie vitucci


When I saw this recipe in the November issue of Bon Appétit I knew I would make it.  I thought maybe as a Thanksgiving dessert.  But, it turns out I couldn't wait that long and made it the day after it arrived in my mailbox.  Of course the fact that it was a bread pudding comprised of pecans, and bourbon, and butterscotch sold me.  More than all that though, I was intrigued by the use of poppy seeds in this dessert.  Poppy seeds in bread pudding?  Well, yes.  And - they work.  The little bits of black splattered among all the other rich, creamy goodness add a nice crunch and texture.  

This recipe is delicious and inventive, and I wouldn't expect anything less from Anita Lo, the original recipe's author.  If you're as much of a Food television addict as I am, then you may know Anita from her stints on Chopped: All-Stars, Season One of Top Chef Masters, or as a contestant in the first season of Iron Chef America, where she became the first contestant to beat an Iron Chef.  Can you tell I'm a fan?

I've adapted the recipe here to suit my taste...primarily, cutting back on the very heavy use of butter and salt.  Even with my adaptations, this is still a very decadent, rich dessert.  Something you pull out once a year for a special occasion, such as Thanksgiving.  It also has the added usefulness of being easily prepared ahead of time, something we can all appreciate during the holidays.  

Bourbon Pecan Bread Pudding with Butterscotch

Adapted from a recipe by Anita Lo via Bon Appétit

Serves 10

The bread used in this recipe should be the crusty, airy, country loaf variety.  For local people - Wave Hill Bread Company's "Pain de Campagne" is the perfect choice.  Cut the bread into 1" cubes and let it sit out on a baking sheet at room temperature overnight to let it stale.  Alternatively, if you're pinched for time, you can dry the bread out in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  

For the Butterscotch Sauce:

1 cup {packed} light brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon bourbon 

For the Bread Pudding:

1 pound day old rustic white bread, cut into 1" cubes

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons + 1 1/2 cups sugar 

5 eggs

4 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

pinch of kosher salt

3 tablespoons bourbon

1/2 vanilla bean

2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

For the Butterscotch Sauce:

1.  Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt to a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Let the mixture simmer for about 3 minutes, or until it's reached a syrupy consistency.  Remove from heat and whisk in the heavy cream and bourbon until smooth {the mixture will bubble up after adding the liquid}. 

To Make Ahead: The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead.  Let cool completely and store refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use.  Reheat before serving.

For the Bread Pudding:

1.  Lightly grease a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish with butter; set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, toss together the bread, melted butter and 2 tablespoons sugar; set aside.  

2. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar together for 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.  Add the cream, poppy seeds and salt.  Beat to combine.  Slit the vanilla bean half length-wise and scrape out the seeds.  Add the seeds and bourbon to a small bowl and whisk vigorously to disburse the seeds.  Add to the egg mixture and whisk to combine.  Pour the egg mixture over the bread.  Add the pecans and stir to combine.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread out evenly.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

3.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Remove the plastic wrap and bake for 1 - 1/2 hours, or the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Serve with the Butterscotch Sauce.  

To Make Ahead:  The pudding can be baked several hours before serving.  Cover with foil and re-heat in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.