Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sweets for My Sweet

They say chocolate is the sweet of Valentine's Day and I don't disagree. But I eat chocolate nearly every day, sometimes twice a day. Chocolate is quotidian. Valentine's Day deserves something special. It merits a rich, decadent dessert that mimicks the intensity affection I feel for my valentine.

I don't know how I decided that bread pudding was the thing to make. Maybe it was the sack of challah rolls that were sitting on the counter uneaten and beginning to be a bit dry. Or perhaps it was the recipe, calling to me from a favorite cookbook.

I made this swoony dessert on Friday the thirteenth and we picked at it all weekend. We ate it hot and straight from the oven late Friday night while watching a John Wayne western. I ate it cold, a few bites snuck from the fridge as we lazed on Saturday afternoon and prepped for a dinner party. It was excellent re-heated and served to friends who moaned and smiled and asked for just a spoonful more.

This was just as bread pudding should be: cozy and boozy and comforting and rich. It was the perfect thing to have around over a long weekend that was full of blustery wind and rain and that also involved a bit of celebrating and love.

Cranberry Valentine Bread Pudding
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup brandy -- admittedly, we only had vodka, which I used with good results.
1/4 cup hot water
1 loaf of white bread (about 10 cups of torn pieces)
2 cups half and half
2 cups milk
6 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
additional 1/2 cup white sugar, for sprinkling
Soak the cranberries in 1/4 cup hot water and 1/2 cup alcohol for an hour.
Tear bread into large rough chunks and place in large mixing bowl.
In a medium bowl combine half and half, milk, eggs, vanilla, sugar, and spices. Pour over bread. Add cranberries and liquid. Mix well.
Pour into buttered, high sided dish. Let sit half an hour to soak up the custard.
Cover top of pudding with additional 1/2 cup sugar and cover dish with a buttered piece of foil. Place covered pan in a second baking dish, one size larger. Fill larger dish with water. Bake for 60 minutes at 350 degrees in this water bath, adding more water if needed. Remove the foil and bake 20 to 30 minutes longer, till top is shiny and hard.

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