Orange Date Bread Pudding came about as a result of a bread pudding I was asked to make at the restaurant. I found it to be bland and not too exciting which to be perfectly frank, I find with a lot of bread puddings.
So, I decided to alter the situation and for some reason oranges and dates came up. It is a favorite combination of mine and it really works in this bread pudding. I use the oranges two different ways to enhance the flavor. I use the zest but also my candied orange peel. It takes no time at all to use my recipe for the peel but you need to make it at least a day ahead. You can also use purchased candied oranges but the texture will be a bit different.
The dates add a natural sweetness as well as some texture. While they come chopped, I prefer to used medjool dates that are whole and chop them. They are sweeter and are more moist.
The Importance of the Bread for the Orange Date Bread Pudding
One of the main reasons bread puddings can be rather bland is the type of bread used. While it is true that any stale bread is a candidate, the more flavorful the bread the better the result.
To that end, I remembered I had some of my Pillowy Soft Dinner Rolls in the freezer and they did the trick. Brioche, Challah, or a good homemade bread works well here. The bread should be cut into ¾” to 1” cubes for best results.
Whatever bread is used, it should be cut into cubes and needs to be moderately dried so it can accept the liquid in which it is soaked. If the bread is too fresh, it will turn to mush and that is not desirable. I usually place the bread cubes on a rimmed pan and allow them to dry overnight, turning them several times. They can also be dried in a 350°F oven but should be watched so they don’t become croutons. That’s not the aim here.
Soaking the Bread
Recipes often ask for milk and heavy cream. It’s easier to just use half and half for the entire amount.
There is no hard and fast rule as to how long the bread soaks. It depends upon how moist or dry the bread was to begin with. Dense breads will take longer and softer breads will take less time. But the bread needs to soak all the way through without turning to mush. I also try not to use crumbs because they can’t hold a shape and contribute to mushiness.
Bread Puddings are quick to make. I prefer them as individual servings and use Texas muffin cups as molds.
The wonderful thing about this Orange Date Bread Pudding is that the ingredients are guides. A little less or a little more won’t alter the outcome.
Hard Sauce is the traditional finish to bread pudding and I have used it for the Orange Date Bread Pudding. It basically just booze, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla. Substitute water or milk if you choose.
Orange Date Bread Pudding
½ pound bread (225 grams, 8 ounces or 6 cups)
½ cup dates, chopped (70 grams or about 2 ½ ounces)
½ cup candied orange peel (preferably mine) [85 grams or 3 ounces]
1 ¾ cup half and half
½ cup packed brown sugar (100 grams or 3 ½ ounces)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
Zest of 1 small orange
¼ teaspoon salt
Cut the bread into ¾” to 1” cubes and moderately dry it. This could take a couple of hours or overnight depending upon the density of the bread. Stir several times to make sure it is drying evenly. Or, dry it in the oven as mentioned above.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray the 6 Texas muffin cups with a non-stick baking release. Set aside.
Cut the dates and set aside. This is more easily done with a pair of scissors than a knife.
Dice the orange rind in about ¼” pieces. Mix these with the dates. Set aside.
Place the bread cubes in a large bowl. Combine the eggs, half and half, brown sugar, vanilla, orange rind and salt. Pour it over the bread cubes. Push the cubes under the liquid. In reality, they will keep popping up to the top, so stir frequently to make sure they are getting uniformly soaked.
When most of the liquid is gone, stir in the dates and candied orange rind.
Fill the muffin cups almost to the top. I got 5 filled as described and then one that was only ⅓ full. But they are rather skimpy if you divide it between 6 cups.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until set and a cake tester comes out clean. They will be golden brown.
Hard Sauce or the Orange Date Bread Pudding
1 cup powdered sugar (130 grams or about 4 ½ ounces)
2 tablespoons really soft butter (30 grams or 1 ounce)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon of brandy, rum or whiskey
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Stir all together until smooth. Adjust the thickness by adding more powder sugar if too loose or a bit of water or milk if too tight.
The sauce can be made ahead. Cover directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Warm in a convection over or over low heat to return it to a saucy state. Do not overheat or the it may break. This Orange Date Bread Pudding may be made ahead and refrigerated. Cover them with foil and place in a 350° oven for 10 to 15 to warm through.
Orange Date Bread Pudding with Hard Sauce on the side.
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