BRIOCHE BREAD PUDDING WITH CRANBERRIES AND PECANS
1 pound day-old brioche, challah,or rich sandwich bread
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups fresh cranberries, picked over
grated zest of 1 lemon
2-1/2 cups milk
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted in 350 degree oven for 8 minutes
1/3 cup dried cranberries, soaked 10 minutes in warm water
1 cup creme anglaise with cassis (recipes follows)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 2 quart baking dish or souffle mold.
Trim crust from the bread slices. If it is not very stale, toast on a cookie sheet in a 325 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, turning once, until slices are thoroughly dry. Let them cool.
Cranberry sauce: Combine the water and sugar in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring water to a simmer stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the cranberries to the simmering liquid, cover and cook slowly for 5 minutes. Uncover the pot and turn up the heat, cooking and stirring frequently for 1 minute more. Off the heat stir in the lemon zest. Allow to cool and press through a food mill. Reserve.
Custard:Whisk together all the custard ingredients until well blended.
Assembly and Baking: Make a layer with 1/4 of the dry bread slices. Pour on 1/4 of the custard. Drizzle on 1/3 cup of the Cranberry Sauce, and sprinkle on 1/3 of the walnuts and 2 tablespoons dried cranberries. Repeat twice more ending with a layer of bread and remaining custard. (Reserve remaining Cranberry Sauce to use as a sauce later.) Let the pudding sit for 10 minutes to absorb the liquid.
Cover the pudding with buttered foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle on the remaining walnuts and plumped up dried cranberries. Bake 10 minutes more.
Serve this pudding warm or at room temperature with Creme Anglaise and remaining cranberry sauce.
Yield: 8 - 10 servings