I have had a can of frozen piña colada mix hanging out in my freezer for months. I'm tired of looking at it. I need to do something with it. I know, I know, the obvious choice would be to get some rum and little paper umbrellas and make drinks. But it's the holidays. I'm in the mood for hot chocolate, spiced rum cider or mulled wine, not a cold, fruity drink.
I begin to brainstorm. Dump it into a cake batter? Coconut-flavored cookies? The more I think about it, the more bread pudding seems like the obvious choice.
Food historians date bread pudding back to the 11th or 12th century as a way peasants used stale bread. Original versions were made with water instead of heavy cream, making them economical. Today, bread pudding has shaken off its humble roots and gained a reputation as a comfort food.
The key to a tasty bread pudding is to use bread that will hold up well to liquid. Sandwich bread becomes mushy and you end up with gummy bread pudding. Any crusty bread such as French, ciabatta or sourdough work well, however, and lend a unique flavor and texture. For something more luxurious, try using brioche or pannetone, a fruit-filled Italian sweet bread.
Using stale bread is also important because it more readily absorbs liquid. If you don't have stale bread, try drying it out in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or leaving your bread out on the counter overnight. Bread cubes should be measured loosely, not packed in the measuring cup. Varying the proportion of liquid to bread will change the denseness of your dish.
Pina Colada Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce
4 cups heavy cream or whole milk
1-1/2 cups crushed pineapple, drained
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
1-1/2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 cups frozen piña colada mix, thawed
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 cups of sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 loaf of day-old French bread, cubed (about 6-8 cups loosely packed)
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the bread. Mixture should be moist but not soupy. Fold bread into mixture and stir until bread is thoroughly coated. Pour into greased 9-by-12-by12-inch glass baking dish.
Allow mixture to sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours to allow the bread to soak up the custard.
Place pudding in a cold oven. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour and 15 minutes, until top is golden brown. Serve warm with rum sauce, ice cream or whipped cream.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, lightly beaten
Rum to taste, about 3 tablespoons
Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Slowly stir in the egg, and then add the rum. Heat and stir over low heat about five minutes. Serve warm over individual pudding servings.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.