I enjoy experimenting with different variations of a favorite recipe. This is a new version of bread pudding, inspired by stuff I already had lying around: some challah, three browning bananas, and a partial jar of caramel topping. It followed the mashed sweet potatoes.
Banana-Caramel Bread Pudding 1.0
about 1/2 loaf of stale challah (or other egg bread)
2 ripe to overripe bananas
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ripe to overripe banana
about 1/2 cup half-and-half
about 1 cup caramel ice cream topping
Grease one 8x8 baking dish. Slice the challah about 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Arrange slices to cover bottom of baking dish.
Peel 2 bananas. Slice them 1/8" to 1/4" thick. Lay the banana slices over the bread.
Slice more bread to the same thickness and make another layer covering the bananas. If there are any gaps, break up some bread and stuff it in there. The dish should be almost full and the contents fairly level.
Pour 2 1/2 cups half-and-half into a medium pot. Heat on medium heat until a skin forms on the surface.
Cut 6 tablespoons of butter into chunks. Microwave for 30-60 seconds to soften. Add butter to hot half-and-half. Stir gently until butter is fully melted. Move pot off heat and allow to cool until lukewarm.
Meanwhile, put 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 4 eggs, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into a mixing bowl. Stir (or beat with a mixer) until smooth. Slowly add half-and-half mixture, continuing to mix the batter.
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Pour the batter over the bread. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to scrape out the mixing bowl and gently press down the bread pieces so they soak up the batter thoroughly. Allow to set for about 10 minutes.
Bake at 350ºF for 45-50 minutes. Bread pudding should set and the top should turn golden brown when done. Remove bread pudding from oven and set the baking dish on a cooling rack.
Peel 1 banana. Slice it 1/8" to 1/4" thick. Distribute the slices on the bottom of a medium pot. Add about 1/2 cup half-and-half, enough to cover the bottom of the pot and most of the banana slices. Turn on the heat and simmer until the banana slices begin to soften and break apart.
Add about a cup of caramel ice cream topping. Stir gently until the caramel dissolves.
There are two serving options. 1) If there is plenty of room in the baking dish, pour the banana-caramel sauce over the bread pudding in the baking dish. 2) If there is not much room left, scoop out the bread pudding into individual bowls and then spoon a little sauce over each serving.
Challah has no dairy in it, so it dries out after a day or two. (It rarely lasts that long, but the recipe made two big loaves.) If you don't have stale challah, just use fresh challah or another egg bread, and let it sit out for a few hours to dry. Other bread should work too, just not quite as rich.
This version got very crunchy and brown on top, because there wasn't quite enough egg batter to fill the dish. While a crunchy top isn't my favorite feature on bread pudding, several other folks loved the contrast so I'll probably leave that alone. If you want a softer effect, add more half-and-half, maybe another egg.
Any kind of caramel topping or sauce should work. Next time I would like to try this with a healthier caramel sauce or real caramel candies, because the jar in my fridge had high-fructose corn syrup in it.
This bread pudding would be excellent with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. We plan to try that as well.