Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ina's French Toast Bread Pudding

Two weeks ago I got a text from my good friend Kathryn of Cooking Inside the Box. She wanted to know if I had any plans for Monday, December 6th. I texted back that as long as Matt (my husband) could watch Otis (my son), I was free as a bird. She wrote back, "Great. I have a surprise for you. Casual dress, no need for the heels." I tried to figure out what the surprise was and begged Matt to tell me. No go, he's really good at keeping confidences.
Fast forward to the end of the week. I was walking back from the Brooklyn Children's Museum with my friend Charlotta (Swedish Chokladbollar/ Chocolate Balls). We were talking about single ingredients that make dishes pop. I referred to a Barefoot Contessa episode where Ina was talking about the relationship between chicken and tarragon, chocolate and espresso, and how just a pinch of certain ingredient make others pop. Kinda like the espresso in Charlotta's Swedish chocolate ball recipe.  Anyway, Charlotta said, "You know, Ina is going to be signing books in the city on Monday." And I was like, "Aw man, I wish I could go, but I have's a surprise...wait a minute..."  I put it together. Well, it was still a great surprise!  
The lines at the Crate & Barrel on 59th and Madison were very, very long. Lucky for me, Kat was able to hold down a spot (after purchase of Ina's new book How Easy Is That?). And then we met Ina. In person! I told her that she was a huge inspiration, that I started a food blog because of her and that she has totally transformed my life in the kitchen. I told her that I grew up in a non-cooking household (though now my mom cooks a lot).  She asked me, "What do people eat for dinner in a non-cooking household?"  I replied, "frozen blintzes, of course!"  Laughter filled the room.  It was a spectacular moment. 
This is a recipe from How Easy Is That?  
Serves 8
1 challah loaf, sliced 3/4 inch thick.  I made 10 slices.
(Note:If challah is fresh, not stale, slice and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees)
8 extra-large eggs
5 cups half-and-half or milk (I used 1 cup half-and-half  and 4 cups milk)
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Confectioners' sugar and pure maple syrup for serving
* Next time I may add some cinnamon!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Arrange to bread into two layers in a 9x13x2-inch baking dish, cutting the bread to fit the dish.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, honey, orange zest, vanilla and salt.  Pour the mixture over the bread and press the bread down.  Allow to soak for 10 minutes.
Place the baking dish in a larger roasting pan and add enough very hot tap water to the roasting pan to come an inch up the side of the baking dish.  Cover the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil, tenting so the foil doesn't touch the pudding.  Make two slashes in the foil to allow steam to escape.  Bake for 45 minutes, remove the aluminum foil, and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes, until the pudding puffs up and the custard is set.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly.
With a small sieve, dust lightly with confectioners' sugar and serve hot in squares with maple syrup on the side.
How easy is that?
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  1. Yum! Looks delish! That book really is fantastic. I made the chicken recipe for Ed last week and he loooooved the sauce Ina tells you to make from the pan juices and roasted onions. Even Weight Watchers loves Ina! (Their webpage this week features a bunch of her recipes from the book.)

    1. Kat-- I just revisited this post. We miss you oodles! xoxo

  2. gobble for some bourbon caramel sauce to pour over...

  3. Yana that sounds AMAZING!!! Bourbon caramel would go PERFECTLY! Kat, thanks for the surprise! You are the best :)

  4. What to you do with the apple cider vinegar? Otis is gorgeous.

  5. I can't wait to try this kind of Baked French Toast by Smitten Kitchen. I'm adding it as a comment just in case anyone stumbles upon this recipe and is craving a cinnamon version. xo

  6. Wow. This was delicious!!!! I thought there would be leftovers-- but nada. I saw the comment that recommeded bourbon caramel sauce. Wowza...that did the trick.