Project Snow Globe continues. After all of the break-ups and make-ups, winter has finally decided to be reasonable, at least for today. This afternoon I shed my jacket and scarf and emerged into the 58 degree sunshine to put life’s harder issues on hold and take a walk with my furry companion.
A leisurely walk. A walk, when I had report cards to finish, dinner to make, and a blog entry to write. However, the tenets of Project Snow Globe state that if there is real sunshine to be enjoyed, one must immediately leave the confines of the globe to seek warmth. I had no choice, you see.
Earlier in the week, when winter wasn’t being so reasonable, I decided to pop open another jar of make-shift sunshine (my Meyer Lemon Marmalade). I daydreamed about marmalade-stuffed French Toast, puff pastry tarts, and marmalade-glazed bacon, but none of the above seemed warm enough, or bright enough (although I’m still holding out hope for the bacon).
I was in the mood for something impractical; like taking the long way on a road trip just to stop by the roadside stand with the juiciest peaches, or the cute pair of red shoes you know you shouldn’t buy, but you do anyways, just because they make you happy.
A failed stuffed French toast experiment turned out to be the happy accident that led to just what I needed; a humble dessert dressed up in a peppy new outfit: Meyer Lemon Marmalade Bread Pudding. Nobody needs bread pudding, per se…but why shouldn’t we allow ourselves to create something frivolous to be enjoyed just for it’s own sake?
In the grand scheme of things, will it matter that I spent an hour thinly slicing Meyer lemons + 24 hours waiting for them to soak + an afternoon boiling, stirring, and canning? Will it matter that I cubed the bread, tossed it in marmalade, tempered eggs to make custard, soaked bread, baked the pudding, and glazed it with marmalade?
Will it matter that I created something just frivolous enough to make myself and some of my favorite people forget about the tough issues just for a moment to share a few blissful spoonfuls together?
I think it will.
- 1 loaf challah, brioche, or other good quality dense bread (about 1 pound)
- 3½ cups half and half
- 1 cup granulated sugar (make it a scant cup if you like less-sweet desserts)
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or one vanilla bean, cut a slit lengthwise)
- ½ cup Meyer lemon marmalade, plus additional for glazing (for a quick variation, use store-bought marmalade)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Preheat the oven to 325˚ F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Butter ramekins and set aside.
- Prepare the Bread:
- Remove the crust from the bread using a serrated knife. Don’t worry if bits of the crust remain in the creases of the bread. Cut bread into 1 inch cubes and put onto a baking sheet. Toast bread for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes.
- Melt Butter and Marmalade:
- Heat marmalade and butter in a small saucepan until butter melts. Gently toss the bread cubes with the marmalade-butter mixture in a large bowl and set aside.
- Make the Custard:
- •Heat the half and half and vanilla bean (if using) in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat. (if using vanilla bean, scoop out the middle with a small spoon and whisk into the half and half).
- •In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract.
- Temper the eggs: (Combining hot liquid with cool eggs will probably result in scrambled eggs. “Tempering” allows the eggs and half and half to be combined gradually into a silky custard). ½ cup at a time, slowly pour the half and half into the egg mixture, whisking constantly until all of the half and half is combined.
- Pour the custard over the bread cubes, lightly tossing to combine. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, occasionally pushing down the cubes into the custard with a spoon or spatula.
- Distribute the bread-custard mixture into the buttered ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops of the pudding start to turn golden. Spoon 1 teaspoon marmalade over top of each ramekin. Bake for an additional 5 minutes.
- If refrigerating, allow ramekins to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking.