Gooey, warm, and cinnamon-spiced, with crunchy pecans and a decadent caramel sauce, Banana Bread Pudding is the brunch dish you have been missing all your life. If you haven’t had bread pudding, it’s a bit like a French toast casserole—custard-soaked bread, steeped in spices and baked. It’s easier to make than you might think: just cube the bread, mix together the rest, dump it all in a baking dish, and after 35 minutes in the oven you have a showstopper of a brunch dish or after-dinner dessert

This is a great make-ahead option—you can prep it the night before, letting the custard absorb into the bread in the fridge and popping it into the oven in the morning. If you can measure, you can make this amazing treat. The caramel sauce is optional, but it really puts it over the top, and it can be prepared up to a week ahead of time (or while the bread pudding bakes). Or you can just buy caramel sauce from the store and be done with it, you’re the boss.

You’ll need:

For the Banana Bread Pudding:

½ loaf challah or brioche (or even white sandwich bread), stale or fresh
3-4 brown bananas
1 ¼ C cream
1 ¼ C milk
2 eggs
1 yolk
C brown sugar
1 Tbsp rum
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
tsp mace
tsp clove
¼ tsp salt
½ C pecans
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp sugar

Caramel Sauce (optional)

¼ C water
½ C sugar
½ C cream

Start by positioning an oven rack in the middle of your oven, preheating your oven to 350F, and buttering a 2 ½ quart baking dish.

Cube your bread—I used three fat brioche buns because that’s what I had. If you’re using stale bread, proceed. If you have fresh bread, put it on a baking sheet and toast in your oven for 10-20 minutes, until light brown in spots, while you mix together the rest of the ingredients.

Mash the bananas roughly in a medium-sized bowl. Add the cream, milk, eggs, yolk, brown sugar, rum, vanilla, spices, and salt to the banana mash and whisk it all together.

Chop the pecans roughly and melt your butter in the microwave (it should take about 15 seconds to melt).

Put the cubed bread into your baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the pecans.

Top with the custard mix. Push the bread cubes down into the custard, stirring if necessary to thoroughly coat everything. At this point, it is best to let the pudding sit at least 15 minutes, or up to overnight in the fridge. That way the bread really has a chance to soak up all the custard

Once your pudding has rested at least 15 minutes, sprinkle with the rest of the pecans, then drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

Pop into your oven for 30-35 minutes, or until puffed and set (it may jiggle slightly when you wiggle it, but it shouldn’t move much).

Meanwhile, make your caramel sauce.

Put a medium saucepan with tall sides on the stove. Add the water, then dump the sugar carefully into the middle of the water in the pan. You want to avoid getting sugar on the sides of your pan, as that might cause your caramel to get grainy. You can very gently kind of smoosh it around to wet the sugar, just don’t let it splash up onto the sides of the pan.

Turn the heat to high, cover, and bring to a boil.

While the sugar heats, put your cream in a microwave-safe dish and heat in the microwave for about a minute and a half to two minutes. You want the cream quite warm when you add it to the sugar or the sugar syrup will seize—clump up into hard candy.

When the sugar mix starts to boil, take the lid off. It will turn a pale straw yellow after a few minutes (around 300F if you have a candy thermometer). When it does, reduce your heat to medium.

Cook, stirring ONLY if absolutely necessary (I had to move mine around slightly because it wasn’t heating evenly), until the sugar mix is a deep amber color (around 350F).

Remove the pan from the heat, and carefully add a bit of warm cream. The mixture should bubble up pretty wildly, so be careful.

When the boiling subsides, add the rest of the cream and the vanilla, and whisk until smooth.

If you didn’t heat the cream up enough, your sugar will seize, hardening into a clump around your whisk. I totally forgot to heat my cream at all, so this happened to me. FEAR NOT!! Your caramel will still appear, it will just take a bit longer. You will have to put the pan back over medium heat, and whisk the caramel hardened around your whisk into the liquid until it melts back in and fully incorporates. It’s a bit more work this way, but ultimately you end up with the same smooth and gooey caramel.

Let the banana bread pudding sit 10-15 minutes when it comes out of the oven, then serve while it is still warm. I like to serve mine with ice cream, but whipped cream or even Greek Yogurt works, too. Drizzle with the caramel sauce and dig in!

Leftovers will keep up to 5 days, covered in the fridge (if yours doesn’t disappear day one).

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