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Lemon, Cardamon Bread Pudding

April 6, 2011

We had some friends over for dinner last night and I felt the particular need to make a “wow” dessert. Something absolutely delicious, with no consideration for anyone’s waistline. Mmmm, an eternal favorite must be had, bread pudding…

Any recipe that calls for a cup of cream usually isn’t in my playbook. Remember, I like healthy dishes (lies, all lies). And I couldn’t do a basic bread pudding. That would be super lame. I had to play “bread pudding dress up” by adding lemon, cardamon, fresh vanilla bean and pistachios, and pairing it with a Pistachio Saffron ice cream (which, sadly, I didn’t make. Oh Daniel…when do I get the ice cream attachment for my Kitchenaid? :))

Might I also add that the complete dinner probably used more lemons than even imaginable for one meal for four: 11. That’s 2.75 lemons per person. I’m insane. But the menu was nice (and not too lemony, shockingly): Avgolemono (Greek Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup), Lemon Garlic Potatoes and Lemon, Cardamon Bread Pudding. The guy at the grocery store must’ve thought I was making lemonade…oh, how I fooled him!

The Pistachio Saffron ice cream was my inspiration for the bread pudding flavors…and a recent trip to the famous Mashti Malone’s ice cream parlor in LA that specializes in Middle Eastern flavors. Of course, I got chocolate when I was there. We’ll call that “resisting the inevitable.”

Here’s a look at the final product. It was fluffy and light while being intensely flavorful and just a little sweet. The pistachio crunch was nice. The fact that I resisted to eat all of the pudding before it went into the oven really speaks to my willpower….which of course is a lie, if my waistline is any indication.

Recipe after the jump…

Lemon Cardamon Bread Pudding

3 cups of day old French bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup fat free milk
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup fresh sweet lemon juice (like meyer lemons, if you can get them)
6 green cardamon pods, crushed
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 vanilla bean, seeded
1/2 cup fresh pistachios, shelled

Prep Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 1 1/2 hrs

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom only of a 9″ glass casserole dish.

Combine bread cubes, pistachios and lemon zest in large bowl. Set aside.

Crush green cardamon pods with side of your knife or in a mortar and pestle. Prepare fresh vanilla bean by cutting down the length of it and using the back of your knife to remove the “seeds.”

Combine whipping cream, milk, sugar, butter, crushed cardamon, ginger, salt and vanilla (seeds and whole bean, you’ll strain out the bean later) in a heavy saucepan. Over medium heat, heat through until butter melts, stirring occasionally. Strain out the cardamon pods and vanilla bean directly into the bread mixture, tossing everything to coat lightly. Set aside and allow to cool to about room temperature. Placing the bowl in an ice bath is an efficient way to do this quickly if you’re in a hurry. Or, left on the kitchen counter at room temperature, this will take about 20 minutes, about 5 in the ice bath.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the lemon juice and stir into the cooled bread mixture. If your mixture is too hot, the eggs will curdle, so time accordingly. Set aside.

Beat egg whites in large bowl of electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into bread mixture.

Pour bread mixture into prepared dish, and bake for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. The top of the pudding should be golden brown.

Serve warm with your favorite ice cream. Or tell your friends you’re going on a nice long hike, sneak back into the house, hide in the closet with a giant spoon and eat it all by yourself. Which I highly recommend. Though you’ll probably need to hike after eating all that bread pudding.

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