As promised, here is my adaptation of the Bon Appétit bread pudding from the January 2010 issue. I made their recipe for Christmas dinner, as well as an improvised cranberry sauce. My mom usually makes a pretty traditional cranberry sauce with orange zest and juice. She didn't have any oranges at home though, so we decided instead to use pears, fresh ginger and cardamom. Everyone really loved the pears and the flavor combo seemed to work well.
Back home in my Brooklyn kitchen, I married the two recipes and the result was a success. The pears and cardamom go surprisingly well with the maple syrup (be sure to use the real deal, of course.) I didn't use any ginger in this recipe, but I imagine it would be a great addition.
As the bread pudding cooled on a wire rack, I whipped the remaining heavy cream with a touch of brandy and maple syrup to make the perfect topping.
Pear and Cardamom Bread Pudding
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons brandy
1 loaf rustic bread, crust removed, cut into 3/4" cubes (6 to 7 cups)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 lbs firm but ripe pears (about 5,) peeled, cored and cut into 1/3 to 1/2" thick slices
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon brandy
1-2 teaspoons pure maple syrup, depending on sweetness desired
Whisk eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, cardamom and salt in a large bowl. Add milk, cream and brandy and whisk to combine. Add bread cubes and stir to moisten completely. Place a glass pie pan or heavy plate on top of the mixture (with a weight on top, if necessary,) to keep the cubes submerged. Soak for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack positioned in the bottom third. Butter a 9x5" glass loaf pan with deep sides. (I used an 8x8" square pyrex pan, which was not perfect but worked - I did lose a few slices of pear as it puffed way up in the oven.)
Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add pear slices and sauté until they begin to soften and brown, about 9-10 minutes. Stir in maple syrup and brown sugar. Simmer until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Stir half of the pears into the bread cube mixture. Pour this into the buttered pan. Top with the remaining slices, overlapping slightly. Drizzle any remaining syrup from the pan over the top. Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet and bake until the pudding is browned and puffed, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Cool for 45 minutes to an hour - the pudding will deflate significantly.
Just before serving, whip cream with brandy and maple syrup until soft peaks form. Serve pudding in bowls with generous scoops of whipped cream.