I am at my best when I’m able to test recipes on willing guinea pigs at holiday gatherings. I’m even better when they close their eyes and slump into their seats after tasting my dish. You put so much thought and care into your creation, sometimes not knowing how the end result tastes (ugh baking). This is straight up anxiety-inducing, especially when you’re waiting for someone’s first-taste reaction. When it’s good you want to play that moment over and over again. Some might say cooking is a gift we give to others, but seeing people enjoy what I’ve made is my pleasure.
My recipe for bread pudding is pretty straightforward. It includes a custard featuring Chinese 5-spice for a special earthy kick, and this is folded into moist cubes of delicious challah bread. Where the recipe gets somewhat fussy, and you need to bear with me here, is the glorious sweet potato caramel. When I first came up with this recipe I knew I wanted squash or sweet potatoes involved, but I didn’t know how to incorporate them...until it hit me. Candided yams! A Thanksgiving staple in many households, why can’t I get it into my caramel sauce? Turns out I can. Making caramel with sweet potato that isn’t fibrous or lumpy isn’t the easiest thing, but when the fond memories of sweet potatoes hit your lips, you’ll be so glad you committed to this recipe. Keep a lot of sugar around, have a little bit of patience, and be careful...cause hot sugar is really hot! I can and will not be held liable for any feuds that ensue over the last piece of this bread pudding.
1 large loaf challah bread
1 sweet potato
6 large eggs
2 c light brown sugar
1.5 c heavy cream, another 1 cup for the caramel
1 5-oz can evaporated milk
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 tbsp Chinese 5-spice mix
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 c pecans, crushed for garnish (optional)
Slice the challah into 2-inch cubes
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1.5 c heavy cream, milk, white sugar, 5-spice, and vanilla together until well-combined.
Grease a medium-sized square baking dish with neutral oil or butter.
In the baking dish, coat the challah in the egg custard mixture, making sure each piece of bread is coated well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and no more than 4.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
Top the bread pudding with the warm caramel mixture and serve.
For the caramel
Poke holes in the sweet potato and roast at 425 degrees for one hour
Mash the potato with a fork, you will notice some liquid. Save it!
In a sauce pan, simmer the brown sugar and 1/2 cup of water on low-medium
Swirl the pan without stirring with a spoon, waiting until the mixture is bubbly and brown
After the mixture starts to appear thick, turn the heat down to low and add 1 cup of heavy cream and whisk
Allow the mixture to continue to simmer and thicken on low, this may take around 10 minutes
Slowly incorporate spoonfuls of mashed sweet potato and the residual liquid into the caramel
Whisk the sweet potato until there are minimal lumps, and carefully strain with a metal strainer if lumps remain
Add cinnamon and salt to taste, continuing to simmer the caramel until you have a thick, molasses-y sauce.