A Recipe for Maple Bourbon Bread Pudding from Rebecca Miller Ffrench of The Upstate Table

Shorter days, less light, we stand on the precipice of winter; the sudden nip in the air and promise of snow are exhilarating, but they also make me crave all things warm and cozy — thick, wool socks, a roaring fire, a full-bodied glass of red, and dessert. Not that I don’t eat sweets year round, but cold winter nights inspire especially comforting foods like warm cobblers and rich cakes. My favorite, however, is creamy, custardy bread pudding. There are several reasons to love this particular bread pudding recipe, which I have tailored for winter: it may appeal to your thrifty and/or trying-to-reduce-food-waste sensibilities because it’s a good way to use up stale bread; it’s a great dinner party dessert because you can make it in advance; and if you exclude the vanilla, you can use almost exclusively local ingredients.

I adore a somewhat chewy sourdough, and two of my favorites are Bread Alone’s levain and Jon’s Bread, which is downright addictive. Jon uses 100% local New York state whole grains that he mills fresh — this makes his flour more nutritious than pre-ground types — and then he slowly ferments the dough. These deliberate methods are clearly evident in the taste of their final product, which you can find at the Kingston’s Farmer’s Market, held in the Old Dutch Church every other Saturday in winter. I also use Ronnybrook milk, heavy cream, and butter. I like Oliverea Schoolhouse Maple Syrup because I can get it right up the road, but it’s not as widely distributed as say Catskill Mountain Sugarhouse, which also has a rich maple flavor. (We have neighbors who tap their trees, so we’re a little spoiled regarding maple syrup.) Ravenwood sells farm fresh eggs from free-range chickens available in their egg box and I get apples from Migliorelli Farm Stand in Mt. Tremper. Let’s not forget the bourbon! White Pike Whiskey makes a small batch bourbon that’s only aged 24 months, but has a nice mellow finish. While the amber liquor gives an added depth to the pudding, there’s comfort in a glass of bourbon too, so go for it, warm the soul and the belly.

Rebecca Miller Ffrench is the founder of The Upstate Table, which hosts gatherings and pop-up events in the Catskills supporting local farmers and purveyors. She hopes to inspire and cultivate home cooked meals using local goods through her recipes and classes. Rebecca is also a cookbook author, recipe developer, caterer, and events planner. She has published four cookbooks, including her most recent, Whole Protein Vegetarian (Countryman Press, 2016). She spends her time between Phoenicia and New York City with her husband and two daughters.

  • Ingredients:
  • For the Bread Pudding
    One 16-ounce sourdough loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 – 8 loosely packed cups)
    6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, plus more for buttering the dish
    3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
    2 cups (1/2-inch dice) apples
    6 large eggs
    2 egg yolks
    2 cups heavy cream
    2 cups whole milk
    2 tablespoons bourbon
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For the Salted Bourbon Caramel Sauce
    1 cup granulated sugar
    6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
    1 tablespoon bourbon
    1 teaspoon sea salt or Maldon salt flakes
A Recipe for Maple Bourbon Bread Pudding from Rebecca Miller Ffrench of The Upstate Table

Catskill Maple Bourbon Bread Pudding
Serves 12

Bread Pudding Steps:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×13 baking dish. Put the bread cubes on a baking sheet. Melt 4 tablespoons butter and sprinkle over the bread. Toss to coat.

2. Toast the bread for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, turning the cubes once. Remove from the oven and spread them in the prepared baking dish.

3. While the bread toasts, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet. Stir in 2 tablespoons maple syrup and the diced apples and stir to coat. Sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes or until the apples just begin to soften the slightest bit. Add the apples to prepared dish with the bread cubes and gently combine, then spread in a single layer in the bottom of the dish.

4. Next, whisk together the eggs, yolks, cream, milk, remaining 3/4 cup maple syrup, bourbon, vanilla and salt until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread cubes and apples. Press the cubes down gently into the custard mixture using the the back of a spoon to ensure that the liquid completely covers them. Let stand for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven again to 350°F. Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 45 minutes covered, then remove the foil and continue to bake another 15 minutes or until the liquid is mostly absorbed and almost set (it’s okay for it to be a little jiggly). Your cooking time should be about an hour but may take up to 70 minutes.) Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

6. Serve warm with Salted Bourbon Caramel Sauce (recipe follows) or jarred caramel sauce. Caral-Sel Salted Caramel Sauce, made in Arden, NY, uses the same four ingredients I do with the exception of bourbon.

Salted Bourbon Caramel Sauce Steps:
1. Put the sugar in an enamel Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium high heat without stirring. You will see the sugar start to melt and become an amber brown. Once this starts to happen, stir the sugar continuously and all the sugar will begin to melt. When it is all liquid, stop stirring and cook for a few minutes or until the desired color of amber is is achieved. Watch carefully because the caramel can burn in just a minute.

2. Once the caramel is the desired color, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until it’s smooth. Keep whisking and slowly add the cream and bourbon. Once the caramel is smooth and the liquids are incorporated, stir in the salt. The caramel will thicken slightly as it cools.

3. Serve spoonfuls of the caramel over the bread pudding. Store refrigerated in a glass jar and heat again before using.

A Recipe for Maple Bourbon Bread Pudding from Rebecca Miller Ffrench of The Upstate Table
A Recipe for Maple Bourbon Bread Pudding from Rebecca Miller Ffrench of The Upstate Table
A Recipe for Maple Bourbon Bread Pudding from Rebecca Miller Ffrench of The Upstate Table
A Recipe for Maple Bourbon Bread Pudding from Rebecca Miller Ffrench of The Upstate Table