Our Own "Maker's Mark" Bread pudding with bourbon-soaked raisins
It was time to find a way to use the bulky frozen challah hogging freezer space, so how about a calming bread pudding to soothe our jittery nerves? Mark Bittman’s New York Times recipe, “Simple Bread Pudding” (below), which calls for challah or brioche, looked ideal, though his suggestions of fresh fruit compote or some chocolate chips didn’t quite hit the mark.
There was a mark that sparked my imagination, though: Maker’s Mark, a versatile (and I think, underrated) bourbon I always have on hand. I love the square solid-looking bottle with its iconic hand-dipped red sealing wax and its odd name, which derives from the hallmarks used on old silverware to show who produced the piece. It’s also unusual that Maker’s Mark is wheated, meaning it has no rye in its mash bill, using instead red winter wheat and malted barley along with the corn.
From my first taste years ago I always found it very easy to enjoy Maker’s sweet smoothness. How could I go wrong pouring some of that tranquility into the recipe? I decided to add some raisins plumped in bourbon to make this dessert something special. Here’s how:
I added the contents of two small boxes of raisins (about 2 ounces) to a jelly jar and poured in about a quarter cup of Maker's Mark. I could have microwaved the mix for a minute or two, but I had time so I left the raisins to rest for half an hour, giving them a good chance to get drunk.
The rehydrated raisins were very plump and smelled divine, and there was a bit of unabsorbed bourbon which also made its way into the mix.
I added the bourbon and raisins in Step 2 after the egg mixture was poured over the bread, and gently folded in the soaked raisins to distribute them.
We brought the pudding to our friends’ outdoor dinner that evening, and everyone had seconds. We split the leftovers (it’s brilliant for breakfast) and when we were invited back the next weekend, our hosts asked if we could make it again. I’d call that hitting the mark.
SIMPLE BREAD PUDDING BY MARK BITTMAN
· 2 cups milk
· 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, more for greasing pan
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· ⅓ cup sugar
· Pinch salt
· ½ loaf sweet egg bread like challah or brioche, cut into 2-inch cubes (about 5 to 6 cups)
· 2 eggs, beaten
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan over low heat, warm milk, butter, vanilla, sugar and salt. Continue cooking just until butter melts; cool. Meanwhile, butter a 4-to-6-cup baking dish and fill it with cubed bread.
2. Add eggs to cooled milk mixture and whisk; pour mixture over bread. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until custard is set but still a little wobbly and edges of bread have browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Barbara Chapman, La Bourbonessa