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.

Marbled Pumpkin Chocolate Cake

At the beginning of summer, my boyfriend and I moved into our first home. We spent the early months dwelling in near empty rooms, gaining familiarity with the space before taking paint to the walls and opening our wallets for furnishings. While the task of making a house into a home felt initially overwhelming, the choice to step back and pause for breath has made the project enjoyable.

Our house came with its own personality, including a unique blend of blonde wood trim, bronzed hardware, and ornate light fixtures. While the personality may not match our own preference for modern, we are finding a way to blend our disparate styles together. We have made design mistakes along the way—the two coats of "bunglehouse blue" paint in the office was quickly repainted with the original color in a short 24 hours, so grave was the error in judgement—but these failures have only led to a better understanding of the space where we live.   

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Observing the changing of the seasons through our living room window has become my favorite part of living in our new home. Summer brought bright, hot sunlight and bold green hues. Autumn came in shades of yellow, the intense leaves fading in color and falling until only bare branches remain. While I hope winter is still weeks away, we have caught glimpses of what it may hold, with diffuse light reflecting off the snow and filling the room with a quality of light reminiscent of cloudy mornings in the rocky mountains. 

On one such morning, with soft light filling the home, I set out to create this marbled pumpkin chocolate cake. Back when I was working in a bakery, one of my favorite snacks was to pipe chocolate frosting onto the pumpkin scraps leftover from leveling the cake, sealing my love for this flavor combination. The bundt cake features pumpkin and chocolate cake marbled together, with a thick chocolate glaze as the icing on top. 

While my baked goods are typically sent to work and enjoyed by coworkers, we kept "forgetting" to bring this one with us. This cake carries the seasonal flavors beautifully.  While it is perfect for sharing with friends and family, I would understand if you want to keep this cake close to home, too. 

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This Marble Pumpkin Chocolate Cake blends together fall flavors and chocolate in this bundt. Alternate spoonfuls of pumpkin and chocolate cake batter are place in a cake pan and swirled with a knife to achieve a marbled look. Once baked and cooled, the cake is covered in a rich chocolate glaze. Due to the moisture in the pumpkin, the cake stays fresh for several days. Serve alongside a cup of hot coffee or a mug of warm cocoa.

Two Years Ago: Caramel Apple Crumble Pie
Three Years Ago: Maple Syrup Cake
Four Years Ago:  Pumpkin Spiced Doughnuts & Stove-Top Popcorn
Five Years Ago: Molasses Cookies, Marbled Butternut Squash Bread, Chai Pear Scones, & Bourbon Apple Cider
Six Years Ago: Grandma's Applesauce, Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal, Honey Roasted Chickpeas, & Caramel Apple Tart
Seven Years Ago: Baked Apple Chips, Homemade Apple Cider, Fresh Ginger Pear Cake, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, Fig & Balsamic Jam, Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal, & Raspberry Vanilla Creme Brulee

Marbled Pumpkin Chocolate Cake

Yields 8-10 servings

Pumpkin Batter
1 1/2 cups (370 grams) pumpkin puree
4 large eggs
3/4 cup (177 mL) vegetable oil
1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Batter
1/3 cup (28 grams) cocoa powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons strong coffee (or milk)
1 1/2 cups pumpkin batter (above)

Chocolate Glaze
6 ounces (170 grams) semisweet or milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (120 mL) heavy cream (or full-fat coconut milk)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Heavily grease a 10-cup Bundt pan. Set aside.

For the pumpkin batter, beat together the pumpkin, eggs, oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt until smooth and uniform in appearance. Set aside.

For the chocolate batter, whisk together the cocoa powder, granulated sugar, and strong coffee in a medium mixing bowl. Add in 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin batter and stir until uniform. Set aside.

In the prepared baking pan, alternate spoonfuls of pumpkin and chocolate batter. Using a knife, swirl the batter by making an "S" shape once around the pan to create a marbled texture.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for 15 minutes before un-molding transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the glaze, heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until steaming. Immediately remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate, allowing the chocolate to melt for 5 minutes before stirring until smooth and uniform. Allow glaze to cool until it reaches a thicker consistency.

When cake has completely cool, pour glaze evenly over the top. Serve after the glaze has fully set. 

Maple Glazed Pumpkin Scones

I opened my first can of pumpkin earlier this week. This annual event may be arriving too late in the season for some (especially you, PSL lovers), but the pumpkin and spices are finally starting to feel right for me. After a rough start to the season, I am focused back on the present, living moment by moment in the ups and downs of daily life.

The weather has been unusually warm for this time of year, supporting short-sleeved shirts instead of winter jackets, and long walks on paved park paths instead of treks through ankle-deep snow drifts. While I would normally be snuggling up on the couch and settling in for the long, cold months, I have been out and about instead, enjoying the respite from winter and enjoying the extended autumn warmth. I may be late to the pumpkin party this year, but I believe it's better to show up late than to never arrive. 

During the holiday season, I like to keep a few scones in the freezer for unexpected moments—when a guest drops by without warning or an unforeseen event pops up on the calendar. The scones can be frozen once shaped and sugar sprinkled. When the unexpected moment arrives, remove the scones from the freezer and bake in a preheated oven. The frozen scones may take a minute or two longer in the oven to bake, but the finished pastries make the wait worthwhile.

I suggest making a double batch: half to eat now and half to freeze for later. There is plenty of scone love to go around.

Maple Glazed Pumpkin Scones deliver classic autumn flavors in a warm, tender pastry for breakfast or an afternoon snack. The pumpkin scones are spiced and sweetened with brown sugar. Before baking, the scones are sprinkled with raw sugar to give the top of the scones a nice crunch. The maple glaze is optional, but it adds an extra level of sweetness and dimension of flavor which finishes off the scones just right.

One Year Ago: Caramel Apple Crumble Pie, & Rosemary Olive Bread
Two Years Ago: Maple Syrup Cake, & Pumpkin Pie (Dairy Free)
Three Years Ago: Butternut Squash Biscuits, Apple Crisp, & Pumpkin Spiced Doughnuts
Four Years Ago: Pumpkin Rolls, Butternut Squash Cake, Baked Apples, Filled Molasses Cookies, & Marbled Squash Bread
Five Years Ago: Grandma's Applesauce, Honey Cinnamon Chickpeas, Caramel Apple Tart, & Banana Espresso Muffins
Six Years Ago: Apple Chips, Fresh Ginger Pear Cake, Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal, & Raspberry Vanilla Bean Creme Brulée

Maple Glazed Pumpkin Scones

Yields 8 scones

Pumpkin Scone
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, cubed
1/2 cup (126 grams) canned pumpkin (or pumpkin purée)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream, plus extra for brushing
Raw sugar (turbinado or demerara sugar) for sprinkling, optional

Maple Glaze
1/2 cup (55 grams) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon milk

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, spices, and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender (or your hands) until mixture resembles coarse sand. Set aside.

In a small bowl, beat together canned pumpkin, egg, vanilla, and heavy cream. Pour over the scone batter and lightly mix until the dough comes together. The dough will be relatively sticky.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using floured hands, form the dough into a circle and flatten it until it is about 1-inch thick. Using a sharp knife dipped in flour, cut 8 equal pie wedges. Transfer scones to a baking sheet using a flat spatula dipped in flour. Place in freezer for 1/2 hour before baking.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Brush top of scones with heavy cream and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

To make the glaze, stir together the powdered sugar, maple syrup, and milk. If too thick, add additional milk by the 1/2 teaspoon until the glaze drizzles in a continuous stream off the edge of a spoon. Drizzle glaze over cooled scones and allow glaze to set for 15 minutes before serving.