Once again, it's time to be thankful for whiskey. I know, we were thankful for whiskey yesterday and we will be thankful for whiskey tomorrow. But today is Thanksgiving. So, let's make it official. We are thankful for whiskey, and more specifically for bourbon, and more specifically for bread pudding with bourbon with the option of bourbon caramel sauce or bourbon whiskey sauce. Or bourbon both.
To be honest, I've never made bread pudding. But it's kind of one of those things where you look at the ingredients and think - how could this go wrong? Bread, cream, vanilla bean, poppy seeds, eggs, bourbon, sugar, and pecans. And the ingredients in the sauces are even more promising.
The one thing I can recommend is to plan ahead. The bread needs to be day old and the whole thing needs to chill overnight. So that means starting two days ahead of time. After that, it seems pretty basic and - I hope - pretty tasty.
This recipe comes via Bon Appetit with a couple of key changes. I didn't take the crusts off the bread - I always knew bread pudding as a way to use up bread and crusts, so I chose to stay with that tradition. Also, I added the option of the bourbon chocolate sauce because 1) I realized we had no chocolate options for Thanksgiving and that's sad and 2) I can't come up with enough excuses to use this bourbon chocolate sauce. It's just amazing. It should go on everything.
Bring brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking to dissolve sugar. Boil until mixture is syrupy and measures 1 1/2 cups, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; add cream and bourbon, if desired, and stir until smooth. Let cool. Rewarm before serving.
Toss bread, melted butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar in another large bowl until pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add cream, poppy seeds, and salt; beat to blend. Place bourbon in a small bowl; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. Whisk to distribute seeds, then add to egg mixture, whisking to blend well. Pour egg mixture over bread mixture in bowl. Add pecans and toss to coat well. Transfer mixture to a 13x9x2” glass or ceramic baking dish, spreading out in an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 325°. Remove plastic wrap and bake until top is browned in spots and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 1 1/4–1 1/2 hours. Serve bread pudding with butterscotch sauce.
Alternate Topping: Chocolate Bourbon Sauce
Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk and sugar. Bring milk to a steady simmer, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Whisk in chocolate until smooth. Whisk in cream. Let mixture come to room temperature, then mix in whiskey.