Pumpkin Caramel Bread Pudding

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The holiday season is right around the corner. For the past few years I have struggled to find the holiday spirit, but this year I seem to have it in an abundance. The feeling brings a comfort and ease, allowing the stresses of everyday life to fade into the background. Perhaps it is the excitement of having a new home to fill with lights and cheer, but I am grateful to have holiday baking and decorating ranking high on my priority list. 

As with most holiday family gatherings, bringing the dessert falls on my shoulders (and I am only happy to oblige). While classic pies—pumpkin, apple, and chocolate cream—are a Thanksgiving tradition, I also enjoy introducing a new dessert alongside the standard selection. In past years, the flavor combinations of chocolate and ginger and pumpkin and espresso have made appearances. For this Thanksgiving, I am planning for the flavors of pumpkin and caramel to join together with rum and raisin in this bread pudding recipe.

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I first made a batch of pumpkin bread pudding seven years ago while I was living in Montreal for graduate school. A large group of us gathered in the living room of a small, one-bedroom apartment, far-flung from our families and homes, to celebrate Thanksgiving together. The meal may have been cobbled together (and each other's faces new and unfamiliar), but we enjoyed each other's company and left with full stomachs. 

The recipe I used back then was quite fussy. While it was delicious, it had too many steps and special techniques to make it approachable for a busy holiday season. For this version of pumpkin caramel bread pudding, I took the same ideas—pumpkin, caramel, and rum raisins—but simplified the recipe to a few steps without losing any of the classic flavors. 

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This Pumpkin Caramel Bread Pudding is a decadent, seasonal dish to share. Brioche bread cubes are layered with rum-soaked raisins, and set into a rich, pumpkin based custard. Caramel sauce is drizzled over the top just before serving. The preparation of this bread pudding allows for some flexibility—prepare it the night before and bake the next morning, or bake it the evening before and reheat before serving. Whether for brunch or dessert, the bread pudding will be a crowd pleaser.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Gingersnap Tart
Two Years Ago: Rosemary Olive Bread & Pear Spiced Sangria
Three Years Ago: Pumpkin Pie (Dairy-Free) & Glaze Chocolate Cake Doughnuts
Four Years Ago:  Gingerbread Pear Bundt Cake & Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
Five Years Ago: Pumpkin Espresso Bars, Maple Roasted Chickpeas, & Gingerbread Muffins
Six Years Ago: Banana Chocolate Muffins, Cranberry Orange Brioche, Cranberry Sauce, & Cranberry White Chocolate Tarts
Seven Years Ago: S'mores Cupcakes, Chocolate Espresso Pots de Creme, & Sugar-Coated Daydreams

Pumpkin Caramel Bread Pudding

Yields 10 to 12 servings

1/4 cup (60 mL) dark rum
1 cup (120 grams) raisins
2 cups (475 mL) half and half
1 cup (237 mL)  whole milk
15 oz. (1 1/2 cups or grams) pumpkin puree
6 large eggs
1/3 cup (105 grams) maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 loaf of brioche or challah bread (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch cubes
Caramel sauce, for drizzling

In a small saucepan, place the rum and raisins over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat when warm. Cover and let the raisins soak for 20 minutes. Set aside.

In a blender, blend together the half and half, whole milk, pumpkin, eggs, maple syrup, spices, vanilla, and salt until uniform. Set aside.

In a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, spread half of the cubed bread over the bottom. Sprinkle half of the rum raisins evenly over the top. Repeat with remaining bread and raisins. Pour the pumpkin custard mixture (and remaining rum from the raisins) evenly over the brioche. Allow it to sit until the brioche has completely absorbed the custard, about 30 minutes or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Bake the bread pudding, uncovered, for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it is puffed and set. If the bread browns quickly, cover the pan with tinfoil to prevent further browning while it finishes baking. Let cool slightly and drizzle with caramel sauce. Serve warm.

To prepare ahead of time, cover and refrigerate the baked bread pudding overnight. Then, cover with aluminum foil and rewarm in a 325 degrees F (160 degrees C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

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Kristin Rosenau

Photographer, writer, and baker of all things sweet.

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