Bourbon-Poached Pear Bread Pudding with Cajeta

From A Friendsgiving Picnic by Melissa Fairchild Clark

Photo by Natalie and Cody Gantz

Photo by Natalie and Cody Gantz

Serves 12

For the cajeta (goat milk caramel)
4 cups goat milk
¾ cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon ground cardamom

For the pears
2 unripe pears, ½-inch dice
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup bourbon (we used Sonoma County Distilling’s West of Kentucky Bourbon)

For the pudding
1 loaf challah bread (we used La Farine’s)
4 eggs
¼ cup turbinado sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1½ cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter

To make the cajeta: Combine the goat milk, sugar, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon stick in a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the milk from burning. Once the milk has boiled, remove pot from heat and, whisking quickly, slowly drizzle the baking soda/water mixture into the pot. It will bubble up, but don’t panic, just keep whisking until the foaming subsides. Once it’s settled down, return the pot to medium-low heat, allowing the mixture to simmer rapidly. Add the cardamom. Stirring occasionally, allow the milk to cook down and darken into a caramel color. The cajeta is done when it coats the back of a spoon and doesn’t drip when you run your finger across the spoon through the coating.

To poach the pears: While the cajeta is simmering, combine the pears, sugar, and bourbon in a small pot. Add enough water so pears are covered, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn heat to low, allowing the pears to simmer for 5 minutes. Once the pears are soft enough to mash against the side of the pot with a bit of pressure, use a slotted spoon to strain them from the liquid.

To assemble the bread pudding: Preheat the oven to 335°. Butter the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Rip the challah bread up into small bits (or cut into ½-inch dice).
In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk the eggs until no streaks of the whites can be seen. Add the sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, milk, cream, and salt. Whisk the mixture until thoroughly combined. Add the torn bread and toss, using your hands or a spatula, until bread is evenly coated in the wet ingredients. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.

Once the mixture is thoroughly soaked up into the bread, fold in the poached pears and then spread the mixture evenly into the baking dish. Bake at 335° for 55 minutes, or until the top looks toasted and a bit crusty and the custard has set.

Serve hot or at room temperature with the cajeta drizzled over top.