Victoria L. wrote in search of a top-notch bread pudding. Later that day, I found just the one at a booksigning at Chicago’s historic Berghoff Cafe (founded in 1898.) Rich and studded with bourbon-soaked bits of prune, pretty squares of this pudding are a special-occasion-worthy dessert. (I got out my mom’s Austrian china to do it justice!) Carlyn Berghoff includes the recipe in her newest book of storied cafe favorites: The Berghoff Cafe Cookbook, co-authored with Nancy Ross Ryan.
Makes 12 or more servings
- 10 cups cubed egg bread or challah, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 ½ cups good-quality pitted prunes, quartered
- 1/3 cup bourbon
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 1 cup milk
- 4 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp almond extract
- lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving
- Spread out bread cubes in a large baking pan and let dry, uncovered, overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350F. In a 1-qt bowl, combine prunes with bourbon. Cover and let soak 10 minutes. Strain prune mixture, reserving prunes separately from bourbon.
- In a large bowl, whisk together reserved bourbon, half-and-half, milk, eggs, yolks, ¼ cup of the sugar, vanilla, and almond extract until well combined.
- Butter a 13 x 9 x 2 baking dish. Evenly distribute bread and prunes. Pour custard mixture over and soak for 15 minutes, tossing once to incorporate all of the custard liquid.
- Heat 8 cups of water to boiling. Set aside.
- Sprinkle sugar over top of the bread pudding. Cover the pudding baking dish with aluminum foil. Set baking dish into a larger roasting pan and pour hot water in larger pan until it reaches a 1-inch up the outside of the pudding baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 350. Remove foil and continue baking until custard is set and is lightly browned and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 more minutes (45 minutes in all.)
- Serve warm, or cold, topped with lightly-sweetened whipped cream