Bacon Bread Pudding

By Iron Chef Leftovers
Photos By AJ Coltrane

Oh so tasty and oh so bad for you.

The Odd Bits dinner I made a while back was supposed to end with a Pig’s Blood Ice Cream. Everyone cringes when I say this, but don’t knock it until you try it. It is actually healthier than traditionally made ice cream as the blood replaces the eggs as the thickening agent and you need to use less volume of blood than you do eggs and the blood is higher in vitamins and minerals and lower in fat and cholesterol than the eggs. It is also the most intensely flavored chocolate ice cream you will ever have and no, it does not taste like blood – you actually wouldn’t even know blood is in there unless someone mentioned it.

That being said, it is freaking impossible to find usable blood in Seattle. You can get a “blood solution” but it is like jelly and will not return to a liquid state, which is fine for making blood sausage, but not so much for ice cream. As a result, I had to go to plan B on desert and went with Bacon Bread Pudding. Not exactly odd bits, but you generally don’t find many people having bacon for dessert (although you should). The nice thing about this recipe is that it is easy and can easily feed a large number of people with a minimum of effort. I adapted this recipe from Chef Larry Monaco’s original Maple Donut and Bacon Bread Pudding.

The Software

Bread Pudding:
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 loaf (1.75 lbs) brioche, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup bacon fat
1 lb thick sliced bacon, cooked crispy

1 1/2 cup of cream
1/2 cup brandy or bourbon
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup bacon fat or 1 stick of butter

The Bread Pudding
Spread the cubed bread on 2 rimmed baking sheets and put into a 300 degree oven for 1 hour a to 1 hour, 15 minutes until they are dried, rotating the pans half way through the process. You are essentially making brioche croutons. Let cool and place in a large bowl

Cook the bacon until it is crispy, reserving all of the fat. Dice the bacon into 1/4 inch pieces and set aside

In a bowl, combine the eggs, sugar milk and vanilla and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture over the bread and toss gently to combine (you don’t want to break up the bread). Let sit for 10 minutes for the liquid to absorb.

In a separate bowl, combine the bacon fat, brown sugar and bacon and toss to combine.

Grease a 9x13x2 baking dish with either butter or bacon fat. Put the bread mixture in first, arranging in one even layer, adding any remaining liquid from the bowl. Sprinkle the brown sugar bacon mixture on top in an even layer and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until set (you are looking for an internal temp of about 165-170 degrees). Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

The Sauce
Add the fat, sugar and cream to a saucepan over medium heat, whisking until the sugar is incorporated, approximately 3-5 minutes. Add the alcohol and bring to just below a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes until slightly thickened. Drizzle over the bread pudding.

I used bacon fat, but butter can be substituted for it. I would recommend using very high quality bacon in this dish as it is going to be a dominant flavor. I would caution using bacon that has been cured in maple syrup as it might cause this dish to become too sweet. The drying out the bread in the oven is critical to the creamy texture of the dish – stale bread does not absorb the liquid as well as the dried bread and will lead to a less creamy dish. If you can’t find brioche, you can use just about any bread (challah will work really well), just make sure you can slice it thickly. This recipe will serve 12 people easily, so you can scale it down accordingly.

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