I come from a long line of hard-working farmers. My mom’s side of the family grew cotton in the Alma and Telico areas of Texas, while my dad’s family grew tobacco in North Carolina. If you don’t know anything else about the South, know that cotton and tobacco put us on the map. Cotton and tobacco are very labor-intensive crops that lacked any innovations to make them easier to grow until recently. This means that my grandparents picked knee-high cotton by hand and my grandma picked tobacco worms off leaves one by one into a bag for burning. With hard working people usually comes hearty appetites; this is why the South gives us rich desserts. Bread pudding is a perfect example of this. It consists of stale bread drenched in custard, topped with a sugary sauce. If you feel guilty about eating it, you’re probably not working hard enough.
First, you need to ensure your bread is stale. I do this by chopping it into 1” cubes and letting it sit out overnight on the counter. If you’re in a hurry, toast the bread cubes in a low oven (200°) until the bread is dry throughout.
Butter a glass baking dish that has a 3-cup capacity. Arrange the stale bread cubes in the dish evenly.
Next, whisk together in a medium bowl the eggs, milk, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon (if using). Pour this mixture slowly over the bread cubes and press the cubes down into the custard. Sprinkle the pecan pieces on top.
Let it soak while you preheat the oven to 325°.
Place the baking dish on a small sheet pan and bake for 30-40 minutes. Baking time varies based on staleness of bread. It’s done when the edges are light brown, the middle is slightly puffed and a few pricks reveal no runny egginess.
Let cool while you make the sauce.
Melt the butter, sugar and heavy cream together in a small saucepan over low-heat. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn off the heat and stir in the whiskey. Serve the sauce with the bread pudding while warm.
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Christina Lane is the author of 3 cookbooks all about cooking and baking for two. She has scaled down hundreds of recipes into smaller servings so you can enjoy your favorite dishes without the leftovers! Valentine's Day is her favorite holiday.