Debra Sims’ Banana Bread Pudding is so scrumptious that it won Best Dessert in Orange County at the 2013 Golden Foodie Awards. Sims, the executive chef at Maro Wood Grill in Laguna Beach, turns humble bread pudding to an irresistible finale.
The dense goodness is served warm nestled in a puddle of Bourbon-spiked cream sauce, the floral scent of warm bananas adrift above the shallow bowl.
Watch this short video to see how the chef makes this ambrosial dish.
She augments egg-and-cream soaked buttered brioche slices with hand-squished bananas and a topping of dulce de leche. (The video shows how she does this … wow.)
Popular in South American dishes, dulce de leche is a confection prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to give it toast-like color and a consistency that is thicker than room temperature hot fudge. It gives the bread pudding luscious caramel notes as well as Argentinian flare. It is sold in jars in Hispanic markets or in some supermarkets with large ethnic specialty sections.
At the restaurant the bread pudding is baked ahead. Before serving, hearty squares are surrounded with cream sauce and reheated in individual skillets in a 425-degree oven.
The eatery is intimate, with eight seats at the counter inside and 20 seats on the deck. Their wood-grilled steaks are delectable, especially when slathered with chimichurri, the classic Argentine sauce that showcases parsley, chilies and garlic. Be sure to leave room for bread pudding. If not, you now have the recipe for making it at home.
This is how it looks before going into the oven.
Banana Bread Pudding
Yield: One 9-inch square pan, about 9 servings (you can serve smaller servings if you like)
6 large eggs, organic preferred
1 1/2 cups Muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out
Pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk, organic milk preferred
2 cups heavy whipping cream, organic cream preferred
Butter for greasing pan
About 2 sticks butter, room temperature
About 1 1/2 loaves brioche bread, see cook’s notes
5 to 6 bananas, organic preferred, divided use
About 1 cup dulce de leche
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Vanilla-Bourbon Cream Sauce:
1/4 cup simple syrup (1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water)
2 cups heavy whipping cream, organic preferred
1/2 cup Bourbon
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out
Cook’s notes: Sims buys the brioche loaves at Bread Artisan Bakery in Santa Ana. Call in advance to order brioche loaves at 949-429-5301. This recipe makes more custard than you will probably need; if you have leftover custard, you can use it to make French toast.
1. Position oven rack in middle position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare custard: Combine eggs, sugar, seeds from vanilla bean and a pinch of salt; whisk until well combined and light in color. Whisk in milk and cream. Strain and set aside.
3. Assembly: Butter the inside of a deep 9-inch square baking pan; set aside. Cut the crusts off of the brioche; slice each loaf into 3/4-inch slices and very generously butter one side (about 1/4-inch thick). Soak enough bread slices to cover bottom of pan one at a time in the custard, about 30 seconds for each. Place in prepared pan in a single layer butter side up. Then peel half of the bananas and mash between your fingers and spread onto the buttered brioche. After you spread the bananas, stick your fingers through to the bottom of the pan and mash the bananas and bread more (this method is clearly demonstrated in the video). Repeat with the remaining custard, brioche and bananas. Top with dollops of dulce de leche (she used a small ice cream scoop and placed 9 of them at equal intervals). Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Bake in preheated oven, about 1 1/2 hours (or until the center doesn’t wiggle when you shake the pan).
4.Prepare cream sauce: For the simple syrup, mix 1/4 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water in small saucepan. On medium-high heat, simmer until sugar melts; set aside and cool. Put cream, 1/4 cup cooled simple syrup, bourbon and vanilla bean in a bowl. Whisk slowly to combine
5.To serve, cut bread pudding into servings and place in shallow bowls. Heat the cream sauce until bubbling. Pour over bread pudding and serve.
Source: Debra Sims, executive chef Maro Wood Grill, Laguna Beach
Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s …
Use kale in an open-faced sandwich.
Kale-topped toasts adorned with sunny-side up eggs make a delectable breakfast treat, but they also could be the centerpiece of a tasty lunch or supper. If you prefer firmer yolks, turn the eggs to cook on both sides, or substitute moist scrambled eggs or scrambled egg whites.
Breakfast Toasts with Kale and Sunny-Side Eggs
Yield: 4 servings
4 (3/8-inch thick) slices rustic whole wheat bread
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided use
1 large garlic clove, minced
6 cups Tuscan black kale (cavolo nero) or curly-edge kale – that has been washed, patted dry, midrib removed, loosely packed, cut into 1/4-inch wide crosswise slices, see prep
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. Adjust oven rack to 8 inches below broiler element. Turn on oven light and broiler. Place bread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Broil until just lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Remove from oven, turn bread over and lightly brush with olive oil, using about 1/2 tablespoon. Sprinkle each toast with 1 tablespoon cheese. Return to broiler. Keep a close eye on the toast; broil until lightly browned, about 40 to 50 seconds.
2. Line a large plate with paper towels. Heat oil in large, deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic, kale and water; season with salt and pepper. When liquid comes to a boil, cover and cook until tender, about 6 to 8 minutes, tossing mixture 2 or 3 times during cooking (common kale will take longer to cook than Tuscan kale). Remove lid and cook until most of liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Add lemon juice and toss. Place on paper-towel lined plate.
3. Place toasts on 4 plates. Generously spray a medium-size nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Place on medium-high heat. When hot, add eggs one at a time, placing them in a single layer. Reduce heat to low. Cook until white is set, about 2 minutes. Divide kale between 4 toasts. Using a spatula, remove each egg from skillet and place on top of kale. Sprinkle eggs with seasoned salt and remaining cheese. Serve immediately.
Nutritional information (per serving): calories 300; fat calories 120, total fat 14 grams; sat fat 4 grams, cholesterol 190 milligrams; sodium 710 milligrams; total carbohydrates 27 grams; fiber 5 grams; sugars 4 grams; protein 17 grams; vitamin A IUs 310%; vitamin C 210%; calcium 30%; iron 20%
Source: “50 Best Plants on the Planet” by Cathy Thomas (Chronicle, $29.95)