13 December 2013

Caramel Croissant Bread Pudding and a Country Stroll

On a wintry November day I made my first visit to Storm King. I had never heard of this large scale sculpture garden situated in upstate New York until a year ago, when we hosted visiting friends from Montreal who on their return drive, stopped off at the Art Center and reported back to us their enthusiasm and wonder at the place. Since then, as will happen, I've realized I'm one of about 5 people living in New York City who hasn't heard of this nearby retreat. Having gone without owning a car for some fifteen years now (take that, carbon footprint!) I'm mostly city-bound, and the majority of my travels are restricted to train and plane. Recently though I figured after a decade-plus living in New York, I might like to see some nearby sites. I joined Zip Car and with that was off to Storm King before it closed for winter. The expansive fields and woods peppered with large scale sculptures did indeed fascinate. Further, I can see why all of my city friends would love it -- a sort of art gallery-cum-nature walk that can be undertaken in 3 hours or less. 

In the meantime, to fortify us for the encounter with the great outdoors, I prepared a decadent breakfast of croissants baked in caramel. This recipe was suggested as a dessert item by the courtroom-and- tabloid-beleaguered cooking matron and former Tory poster-child, Nigella Lawson. Owning several of Nigella's cookbooks I can attest that the woman is not one for reserve when it comes to food and so it was nothing short of pure decadence that had me prepare dessert for breakfast. And yet, something sweet and sticky for breakfast should surely be allowed when one is going to be walking off at least a portion of the calories. Plus I served a bit of fruit alongside. 
Caramel Croissant Bread Pudding
Adapted slightly from Nigella Lawson
Serves 4

2 stale croissants
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoons orange juice
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Rum
2 large eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Using a bread knife or your hands, cut or tear the croissants into pieces (3-4 pieces each) and place in a small, generously buttered casserole dish with a capacity of about 2 cups. Crack eggs into a large bowl and set aside.

Put the sugar and orange juice into a saucepan, cooking over medium to high heat until the sugar melts and begins to caramelize. The sugar will bubble -- there is no need to stir it or touch it, just keep an eye on it to make sure it isn't coloring too fast. Overall, cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the sugar is a deep amber color.

Turn the heat down to low and add the cream. The sugar will spit and splutter quite a bit, just continue whisking until any solid bits melt down again, then add the milk and liquor of choice. Take off the heat and, add a few tablespoons of the milky caramel to the eggs, whisking and beating the eggs to warm them up a bit. Then add the remaining milk mixture to the eggs and beat with whisk until combined.

Pour the caramel custard over the croissants and leave to steep for 5 to 10 minutes depending how stale the croissants are. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes and then let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. *

*I served segmented oranges alongside which provides a welcome tartness to the super sweet-richness of the breakfast/dessert.  

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