I like to think of ourselves here at the Circle B Kitchen as sort of bread pudding aficionados. I mean, we’ve been making bread pudding on Christmas night for over 20 years now, so we’ve been pretty sure we had the whole bread pudding thing figured out. Until I made this one, that is. I do believe we just had our bread pudding world turned upside down.
Oh my ever lovin’ goodness, was this stuff good. Lick the bowl good. Sneak another bite when no one’s looking good. Go ahead, have a third helping good. OK, I think you get it. But what makes this bread pudding so special? It wasn’t the figs, which is saying something. I adore figs and they were awesome in this, but there was something quite spectacular in the moist puffiness of this bread pudding and how the brown sugar and butter carmelized the top. See, your mouth is watering, right? Mine too.
I’ve been waiting for weeks for fresh figs to show up in the market just so I could make this, and I really don’t want to neglect how good the figs were. I veered a little from the original recipe, and I must say I’m glad I did. I do have my moments. The recipe says to halve the figs, but it seemed to me that perhaps they would set into the bread better if they were sliced thinner. Good call. Also, I decided to caramelize some of the figs to place on top when serving. OMG. So good. I happened to have a bottle of fig balsamic vinegar in the pantry which I mixed with a little sugar and then marinated some sliced figs in that. Then I roasted those in the oven until they got brown and caramel-y. Really rather delicious, I must say.
So now, after all these years of faithful devotion to our traditional Christmas bread pudding, we must face the truth… we’re moving on. This is now our new Christmas pudding. Figs or no figs, I will have no other.
Fresh Fig Bread Pudding
Adapted from a recipe in the SF Chronicle
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 to 12 slices day-old country-style bread
1 pint fresh figs, stemmed and sliced in thirds lengthwise
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Use 1/2 tablespoon of the butter to grease a 2-quart baking dish.
Pour the milk into a large bowl. Add the vanilla, eggs, all but 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt. Mix well. Add the bread and let stand until it is thoroughly softened, about 10 to 20 minutes, depending upon the dryness of the bread.
Arrange a layer of bread in the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover it with a layer of figs and then drizzle with some of the egg-milk mixture. Repeat twice, pushing the layers down as you go and ending with a layer of figs, putting them cut-side down. Add the remaining egg-milk mixture. Sprinkle with the reserved 6 tablespoons sugar. Cut the remaining 3 tablespoons butter into small pieces and scatter them over the top.
Bake for about 45 minutes, until the pudding puffs and turns golden, and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.