Winter Treat

Rustic bread pudding with vanilla bourbon sauce.

After all your resolution-induced deprivations, here’s a justifiable indulgence to keep the chill away during our cold Montana winter. This recipe is an all-around crowd-pleaser; served with vanilla bourbon sauce, it will be a favorite at holiday parties. Or, serve to the crew with a pile of bacon for Sunday brunch before heading up the hill for a half-day of skiing. Have fun, play with it, and make it your own. Enjoy!

1 loaf (1 lb) French bread or egg bread
1 1/2 cups rough-cut pecans
1/2 cup melted butter
4 eggs
1 cup cream
1 cup half-and-half
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
Dash of ground cloves
1 1/4 cup white sugar
3 Tbsp vanilla
Dash of salt
1 cup raisins, currants, apples, etc.

Set oven to 325 degrees. Tear bread into rough one- to two-inch pieces. Arrange on baking sheet with pecans, drizzle with melted butter, lightly sprinkle with cinnamon, and lightly toast in the oven.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, cream, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, salt, sugar, and vanilla. Layer the bread and pecans in a lightly buttered 7”x11” casserole dish alternately with fruit. Pour egg mixture over bread and fold in. Make sure that bread slices become saturated with liquid; leave to soak if time allows. Sprinkle top with fruit and nuts and fluff the top layer of bread after for presentation before baking. Bake for 60 minutes, until golden. Lightly cover halfway through to prevent overbrowning. Serve warm.

Vanilla Bourbon Sauce (optional)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Bourbon
Finish with 1 Tbsp vanilla
Simmer, stirring constantly until gently boiling. Cool for a few minutes, add vanilla, then pour over baked bread pudding and serve.

Elle Fine owns Elle's Belles ( in Bozeman.