A fixture form of celebration at this time of year is the sharing of food – the potluck or what my mother and grandmother called a “covered dish dinner”. One recipe that made it to both workplaces this year – mine and my wife’s – is pumpkin bread pudding, which I first saw posted on a blog by Karen Gibson, a Cincinnatian who writes under the name SoupAddict. However, I did try a variation on the glaze she suggests, and was very pleased with the results.
The glaze I developed is made with speculoos spread. Speculoos are cookies which originated in Belgium, and were traditionally baked to be given to children during the feast of Saint Nicholas, on December 6. These are spice cookies similar to gingerbread, and “spice” may be the most likely root of the name. However, an interesting possibility is that the name comes from “speculator”, and refers to the motto given to St. Nicholas, “he who sees all things”.
In the past, when speculoos were used as a sandwich filling for workmen who didn’t want to shell out for meat or cheese, the cookies, when placed between two slices of buttered bread, softened into a paste by lunchtime. This was the inspiration for the spread.
SoupAddict recommends an egg bread for the base of the bread pudding. I used my own brioche, which I made in my bread machine. Recipes can be found in most bread machine cookbooks. Challah is another good choice. Let’s get started:
for the bread pudding
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 big pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
6 cups brioche cut into 1-inch cubes
for the glaze
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons speculoos spread (Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter)
1/2 cup confectionery sugar
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 9 X 9 pan in your preferred method, or you can prepare two 3 X 5s (one for work, one for home!)
Whisk together all bread pudding ingredients, reserving the bread, until smooth. Turn in the bread cubes carefully until they’re coated. Place in the pan and bake on a middle rack (30 to 35 minutes for the two small ones, about 45 minutes for the large). Let cool for five or ten minutes. (I served it warm , but it can be served at room temperature, also)
Microwave the milk for the glaze for 20 seconds or so. Add the speculoos spread and ¼ cup of confectionery sugar, and combine with a whisk. This may take a little time to produce a smooth product, but eventually, it will. Add confectionery sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until reaching the desired consistency. (You may not need all the sugar; that’s OK.) Drizzle about half the glaze on the bread pudding, then drizzle the rest when serving.