Ina Garten’s Vanilla Bean Brioche Bread Pudding

Our Father’s Day celebration involved grilling and baked goods. We started the day with a mini-bundt cake version of Alton Brown’s Strawberry Muffins. There may have been some leftover Strawberry Crumb Cake on the side too. My husband loves strawberry season. 🙂

Because he has been excited about experimenting with his meat grinder, my husband wanted to make his own burger blend for dinner. (This time, he used a combination of beef brisket and chuck steak. It was a success!) I made curly fries, corn on the cob, and a green salad with ice box buttermilk dressing to serve on the side. I think that he really wanted me to have time to focus on this incredible dessert!

This bread pudding recipe was adapted from Cook Like a Pro: Recipes and Tips for Home Cooks- a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten. The “pro tip” in this recipe was to use melted vanilla bean ice cream as a shortcut crème anglaise to drizzle over the top. It was rich, indulgent, and absolutely fabulous.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 8 to 9 ounces brioche (I used 6 slices of Trader Joe’s brioche)
  • 1 1/2 extra-large whole eggs (I divide an egg in half by weight)
  • 4 extra-large egg yolks
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  • 7 ounces (1/2 pint) vanilla bean ice cream, melted, for serving (I used Häagen-Dazs)
  1. Place the ice cream in a pitcher in the refrigerator to melt.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection, with a rack in the center.
  3. Cut six 3/4-inch slices of brioche. (Trader Joe’s brioche is pre-sliced.) Keep 3 1/2 slices whole. Trim the crusts from the remaining 2 1/2 slices; cut into 1-inch dice.
  4. In a single layer, spread the whole slices and cut pieces of brioche on a rimmed sheet pan. Place in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, to lightly toast the bread.
  5. Meanwhile, make the custard. Whisk the whole eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, and vanilla bean seeds in a large bowl, preferably with a spout. Set aside.
  6. Line a 2-inch deep baking dish with the whole slices of brioche, cutting them to fit in a single layer. (I used a 9 1/2-inch round, ceramic baking dish. An 8×8-inch square dish, or equivalent, could be substituted.)
  7. Distribute the diced brioche on top.
  8. Pour the custard over the top of the bread and press down lightly so that the bread is soaked with custard. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  9. Place the baking dish in a roasting pan large enough to allow the baking dish to sit flat. (I used a large roasting pan with handles. I also placed a silicone mat underneath the baking dish to prevent it from moving within the pan.)
  10. Pour about 1 inch of the hottest tap water into the roasting pan, being sure not to get any water into the custard.
  11. Cover the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil, tenting the foil to make sure that it doesn’t touch the custard. Cut a few holes in the foil to allow steam to escape.
  12. Bake for 45 minutes.
  13. Uncover and continue to bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until browned and set. Test by inserting a knife in the center- it should come out clean.
  14. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve warm, drizzled with melted ice cream.

Classic Bread Pudding

My husband requested bread pudding for his celebratory Father’s Day dessert this year. This classic dessert is second only to cheesecake in his heart. ❤

This isn’t technically another strawberry dessert… but the fresh strawberry topping definitely brought this fabulously creamy bread pudding to the next level.

The recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart.com. I omitted the raisins, modified the presentation, and added the fresh strawberry garnish. Delicious.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 T unsalted butter, softened, for baking dish
  • 12 ounces brioche or challah, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup raisins, optional (I omitted them)
  • 1 cup boiling water, optional (if using raisins), plus more for pan
  • fresh strawberry slices, for garnish, optional

Mini Gâteaux Breton

These cake-type cookies are based on the classic French cake. They are buttery, nutty and minimally sweet. Lovely!

This recipe is from The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I used granulated sugar, unbleached all-purpose flour, and baked them in regular brioche pans instead of mini pans. I may need to purchase mini brioche pans for my next batch! 😉

Yield: Makes 14 regular or up to 38 mini cookies

  • 25 g (1/4 cup, 0.9 oz) blanched sliced or slivered almonds
  • 75 g (6 T, 2.6 oz) granulated sugar or superfine sugar
  • 1/8 tsp (0.7 g) fine sea salt
  • 9 T (1 1/4 sticks, 4.5 to 5 oz, 128 to 142 g) unsalted butter, preferably high fat
  • 2 large egg yolks (2 T plus 1 tsp, 35 ml, 1/3 oz, 37 g), at room temperature
  • 1/2 T (7.5 ml) kirsch, dark rum, or water
  • 3/4 tsp (3.7 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 125 g (1 cup, 4.4 oz) all-purpose flour
  1. Twenty minutes (or longer) before baking, set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (160° C).
  2. Toast the almonds: Spread the almonds evenly on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until pale gold. Stir once or twice to ensure even toasting and avoid over-browning. Cool completely.
  3. In a food processor, process the almonds with 2 T (25 g, 0.9 ounce) of the sugar and the salt until fairly fine but not powder.
  4. Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater, mix the remaining sugar and the bittern low-speed for about 1 minute, or until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. On low-speed, beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating for about 20 seconds between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  6. Add the almond mixture, water or liquor, and vanilla and mix on low-speed until the almond mixture is moistened. Beat for about 20 seconds until evenly incorporated.
  7. Add the flour in four parts, turning off the mixer between addition, and beat no the lowest speed for about 15 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  8. Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes, or until firm.
  9. If using regular brioche pans, use a large cookie scoop (about a tablespoon in volume) to ration the dough. (For mini brioche pans, scoop out rounded teaspoons of the dough (0.3 oz/10 g).
  10. Roll each piece of dough between the floured palms of your hands into a ball and set it into a brioche pan. (The flour will prevent the dough from sticking to the pan.)
  11. Press the dough balls into the pans. Use a finger to press the dough into the fluted edges.
  12. If the dough is sticky, refrigerate the dough until firmer.
  13. Set the dough-lined brioche pans at least 1/2-inch apart on a rimmed baking sheet.
  14. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until golden brown. (An instant-read thermometer should read about 205°F/96°C.
  15. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.
  16. Using a toothpick (for regular pans) or a needle (for mini pans), loosen one of the edges of the gâteaux to loosen it and invert it onto another wire rack. Cool completely.
  17. Repeat process with remaining dough.

Notes:

  • These cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room-temperature for up to 5 days, refrigerated for up to 10 days, or frozen up to 3 months.
  • The regular brioche tins are 8 cm/3 inches in diameter. The mini brioche pans are ~4.5 cm/1 3/4 inches in diameter.

Italian Easter Bread Wreath

Happy Easter! I made this sweet and tender orange-scented bread to serve for breakfast with our hard-boiled Easter eggs. The texture was similar to panettone without the dried fruit.

As an aside, I have to share a photo of my Easter cat with his catnip carrot. ❤ We are all very festive in my house!

Because I live in fear of overbaking my sweets, I was disappointed that this loaf was slightly overdone after I had already significantly reduced the baking time in the original recipe. :/ Don’t worry! We still gobbled it up, but, I modified the recipe below. The sweet orange glaze made it a crowd-pleaser.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I weighed all of the dry ingredients and used vanilla and orange extract instead of Fiori di Sicilia. I also reduced the baking time and tented the loaf during baking. Pretty.

Yield: One 10-inch round loaf

For the Starter:

  • 120 g (1 cup) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) cool water
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

For the Dough:

  • 269 g (2 1/4 cups) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 67 g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract + 1/4 teaspoon orange extract or orange oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed, optional (I omitted it)
  • grated peel of 1 large orange

For the Glaze:

  • 113 g (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • sprinkles or nonpareils, for decorating
  1. To make the bread: Mix together the starter ingredients, cover the bowl, and let rest at room temperature overnight, or for up to 15 hours.
  2. Next day, combine the bubbly starter with all the remaining dough ingredients. Mix and knead, using a mixer or bread machine, until the dough is elastic and satiny. We don’t recommend preparing this dough by hand, as it’s quite sticky and challenging to bring together. (I used the beater until the dough came together and the dough hook for about 7 minutes on medium speed to knead the dough.)
  3. Grease a large bowl and let the dough rise for 1 to 2 hours, until it’s noticeably puffy. (I used a proofing oven.)
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface, divide it into three pieces, and shape each piece into an 18″-long rope. Braid the ropes together, and connect the two ends to form a wreath.
  5. Cover the wreath and allow it to rise until puffy, about 1 to 2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  6. Bake the wreath for 10-15 minutes, then tent the loaf with aluminum foil and reduce the oven heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 8-15 minutes. The finished loaf will be golden brown, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will register at least 190°F. (I baked it at 375°F for 15 minutes, and 350°F for 10 minutes and the internal temperature of the loaf was 205°F.)
  7. Remove the wreath from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool.
  8. To make the glaze: Stir together the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the milk or orange juice. Add more liquid 1/4 teaspoon at a time, until the glaze is thin and pourable.
  9. Drizzle the glaze onto the cooled braid, then decorate with sprinkles, if desired.

Easter Paska

Happy Belated Easter! We had unseasonably warm weather and bright sunshine on Easter Sunday in New York. 🙂 In the afternoon, we visited a local swan to admire her impressive nest.

I made this buttery and eggy Eastern European Paska to enjoy for breakfast over Easter weekend. My daughter braided the dough for the decorative cross. She did such a great job! 🙂 It was such a light and fluffy loaf- really delicious. We ate it topped with butter and jam. It was also recommended to eat with kielbasa or leftover Easter ham.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. I used a bread machine to knead the dough and omitted the sugar topping. It could have been used as a beautiful centerpiece as well.

Yield: 1 large loaf

For the Bread:

  • 1 cup (8 oz) lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups (21.25 oz) all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt

For the Topping:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • coarse sugar, like turbinado, optional (I omitted the sugar)
  1. To make the dough: Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough. (I used a bread machine.)
  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it’s noticeably puffy. (I placed it in a warming drawer on the “proof” setting.)
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide it into two pieces, one twice as large as the other. Take the larger piece, roll into a ball, and place it into a well-greased 9″ x 2″ round pan.
  4. Divide the other piece of dough into three equal pieces, and roll each out into a 20″ strand; use the three strands to create one long braid. 
  5. Place the braid around the inside edge of the pan, or use it to form a cross over the top of the larger piece of dough. 
  6. Cover the loaf and let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. (I used a proofing oven.)
  7. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection, with a rack in the center.
  8. To make the topping: In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water. Brush the mixture gently over the top of the risen loaf, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired.
  9. Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, or until it’s a rich golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool before cutting.

One Year Ago:

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Four Years Ago:

Easter Babka

My mother-in-law makes a traditional Ukrainian babka for Easter every year. I have always felt that I would like to do the same- but I felt intimidated. This year, I finally pulled out my Ukrainian cookbooks to search for the perfect recipe… and became even more intimidated!! :/ First, I looked through recipes for Traditional Easter Paska, beautiful round loaves topped with elaborate dough ornamentation; they seemed more of a end-point than a starting point for my first attempt to make a special Easter bread.

When I saw this recipe for “Country” Babka, I knew it was more fitting. Rich, simple, and still festive. I was happy that it included raisins in the dough. We ate it lightly toasted with butter and/or jam with our colorful hard-boiled eggs for breakfast on Easter morning. This recipe was adapted from Traditional Ukrainian Cookery by Savella Stechishin. Happy (Belated!) Easter!!

For the Sponge:

  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1/2 cup scalded whole milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the Dough:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 T lemon zest
  • 2 3/4  to 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  1. Make the sponge: Dissolve the sugar in the lukewarm water, sprinkle the yeast over it, and let it stand until softened. Combine with the lukewarm milk and 1/2 cup flour. Beat well, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place until light and bubbly. (I placed mine in a proofing drawer for about 15 minutes.)
  2. Make the dough while the sponge is rising: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs with the salt.
  3. Add the sugar gradually and continue beating until light.
  4. Beat in the butter and lemon rind.
  5. Combine the dough mixture with the sponge.
  6. Stir in the flour and knead in the bowl (with the dough attachment) for about 10 minutes. The dough should be thick. Add more flour if needed to make it less sticky.
  7. After the 10 minutes, knead in the raisins until evenly incorporated.
  8. Cover with a clean towel, and let rise in a warm place (I used a proofing oven) until double in bulk. (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours)
  9. Punch down, knead a few times, and let it rise again until double in bulk. (In a proofing drawer- about 1 to 1 1/2 hours)
  10. Generously butter a tall, round baking pan with soft butter (or spray with cooking spray). (I used an angel food cake pan.) Place the dough in the pan (It should fill 1/3 of the pan.)
  11. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled or tripled in bulk (or until the dough reaches the brim of the pan- not the case in my angel food pan). (about 1 1/2 hours in a proofing oven)
  12. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, then cover with foil to prevent over-browning. (I did 15 min but would do 10 next time…)
  13. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes.
  14. Lower the oven temperature again to 275 degrees and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer. (I omitted this step, as my loaf baked more rapidly in the angel food cake pan.)
  15. Let the dough stand in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes; remove to cool.

Note: Traditionally, Babka is sliced in rounds across the loaf. The sliced bottom crust serves as a protective cover, and it is put back to prevent the loaf from drying. (We deviated from this tradition, as I baked the loaf in an angel food pan, and, therefore cut more traditional slices.)

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Bread Machine Brioche

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Why hadn’t I ever thought of this before? What a heavenly breakfast!! My friend asked for help searching for a bread machine brioche recipe- I found this one from Fleichmann’s yeast, via Food.com, all over the blogosphere. My friend tried it first and couldn’t even wait for the bread to cool before digging in- the smell was so amazing. 🙂 I had to make it myself, of course! It was eggy and tender. We smothered it with Strawberry-Vanilla Bean Jam (which we have been rationing since last June!) and enjoyed it as we watched the snow pour down outside…. on the last day of March!! I may add raisins next time- GREAT!

Yield: One 1 1/2 pound loaf

  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine, softened, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup milk (70º to 80ºF) (I used 1% milk)
  • 3 tablespoons water (70º to 80ºF)
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  1. Measure all ingredients into bread machine pan in the order suggested by manufacturer.
  2. Process on sweet or basic/white bread cycle; use light or medium/normal crust color setting.
  3. Remove bread from pan; cool on wire rack.

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