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When life gives you eight cups of pumpkin puree and 1/3 lb. of vanilla beans on the same weekend, make pumpkin bread pudding. When that weekend also comes with a bit more stress than a quiet good citizen is used to, add some bourbon to your pudding. Whatever the circumstances may be, pumpkin bread pudding is comforting and delicious, easier to put together than a pie but with all the autumnal holiday flavors you desire from a pumpkin dessert. You can be flexible with your choice of bread: cinnamon raisin bread is my favorite, my husband likes challah and the pictured version features a gorgeous yeasted squash bread my Mom makes. It’s also a great way to use up ends and small amounts of various breads; as long as they work in a sweet setting, try a combination of varieties, and remember that a little bit dry/stale is actually desirable. Dress your dessert up with some vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce or a dollop of cinnamon-scented whipped cream, or eat it plain.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding (adapted from smitten kitchen)

  • 6 T. unsalted butter
  • 5 c. day-old bread (cinnamon, raisin, challah, baguette or similar), cubed
  • 3/4 c. pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped*
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 2 T. bourbon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In an 8″ x 8″ glass or ceramic baking pan, melt the butter in the preheating oven. (Genius tip from smitten kitchen.) Watch carefully and, when melted, toss together the butter and bread cubes until coated. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, spices and bourbon, if using. Add the bread to the pumpkin mixture, carefully, and toss gently to mix; return to your pre-buttered baking pan. (It really is genius.) Bake for 25-30 mins., until the custard has set and the top has browned. Cool slightly before serving.

*Save the bean after scraping all the goodness out for your pudding; stick the husk (is that the right word?) into a container filled with white sugar and you’ll have vanilla sugar before you know it. If you don’t have a vanilla bean to use, omit or substitute 1 tsp. vanilla extract.