Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

Heritage House Smorgasbord -
Madison Wisconsin cir 1960

This recipe started out as a simple bread pudding recipe.  When I was a kid, my parents very rarely took their brood of 10 (7 children, the parents and a crotchety old German grandpa) out to eat, but when they did, they went to a Smorgasbord restaurant.   Now, for those of you who do not know what a smorgasbord is, we now call them all-you-can-eat and buffets.   However, back in the late 60s, early 70s in Wisconsin, the preferred term was Smorgasbord – its that Norwegian heritage infiltrating the local culture. 

In Madison, it was Heritage House on the Northeast side of Madison.  It was an iconic place for many years and unfortunately in the late 80s, it saw its demise.

Where is this going?   To the dessert table, of course.   There, without fail, was bread pudding.  I tried it once and fell in love with the stuff.  Why, cause I adore and love all things BREAD!   I had asked my mother to make it sometime and she turned her nose up and said how much she hated the stuff.

I don’t know if it was because it was considered a “poor man’s” dessert or what, but she just wouldn’t, so I did!

When I left home, I searched out recipes (before the blessed day of the internet) at the library, in cookbooks or from others I knew had made it.  I kept trying to find a compilation that reminded me of the rich, custard and apple-filled pudding that I had in my youth.   I was not a fan of raisins until recently and every recipe I got my hands on was too dry and had raisins?  What was up with that?   I was completely unsuccessful.

That is, until I moved to Hawaii, of all places.  It is on the Island of Oahu and from the most Hawaiian woman I would ever meet, that my 20 year search would come to an end.  

She was generous in sharing her secret recipe with me and the key ingredient would surprise me, to the point of thinking, “now why did I not just think of that”.  

What was it, you ask?  Apple pie filling, that’s all.  Oh, and NO raisins!

I have made this recipe for as long as my children have been around.  It’s all they know and they too, now, have become finicky bread pudding connoisseurs.   I’m sorry, dear children…. I know your pain, but at least you know how to do it yourselves now! 

Here you go.  Enjoy as much as we have!

Carmel Apple Bread Pudding
10 slices of stale bread - 
I like to buy day old Challah (Hit the bakery or grocery store on a Saturday Morning) OR you can use a day old Italian load (no seeds on top).  A few days old loaf of Texas Toast is a good choice as well. 

4 large eggs
1-1/2 c heavy cream
1-1/2 c whole milk
2/3 c sugar
2 t vanilla
½ t salt
½ t ground cinnamon
Apple pie filling
If you can get a 32oz jar (some local Amish communities make and sell a jar-canned version, which is fantastic) – get 1 jar.   If not, 2 of the regular 21 oz cans will do.  You may not use the entire second can, as it may be too much, but one can is just not enough.  Try it and see.  Its all preference. 

1 recipe of Caramel Sauce (follows)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.   Break up bread into a bowl and then spread into a greased (butter or Pam will work – butter will help to caramelize the edges and make them nice and crunchy.  Pam just helps it to not stick.  You pick).   In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the cream and milk.  Add the sugar, salt and cinnamon and mix together.  Pour the mix over the bread in the pan.   Then, spoon the apple pie filling into the bread and egg mix in the pan, making sure to get as much as you can .  Carefully mix the filling into the mixture, just so that it is covered by the egg/milk mix.   Make sure the bread is completely covered with egg/milk mix and that the apple pie filling is mixed in carefully. 

Bake uncovered for 40-50 minutes.  The pudding will be set in the center and the bread will be a golden brown. 

While the pudding is baking, make the Caramel Sauce.

Caramel Sauce

1-1/3 c packed brown sugar.
1 c light corn syrup
1 c half and half
4 T butter

Over medium heat, cook all the above ingredients in a 1 quart sauce pan.  Stir constantly.   Cook until thickened (about 3-5 minutes).  Remove from hear.  Pour over the top of the warm pudding. 

Place the pudding under the broiler, about 4 inches from the heat source.  Broil about 1 minute, until bubbly!

Serve warm with fresh whipped cream or a rich vanilla ice cream!