I have a love/hate relationship with fall. Fall colors are beautiful; I love the smell of a crisp fall day (which is really not the same in Colorado as it is in Michigan), I love fall foods like roasted vegetables and chicken. What I do not love is the end of the summer; which marks the end of camping, biking, and patio eating and drinking. I love eating outside, and drinking outside, and everything that you can’t do in the winter. Fine- winter in Colorado is still pretty badass, but I’m going to miss the summer.
Here is one thing I love about fall, fall flavored treats, specifically pumpkin. I love everything from pumpkin pie to pumpkin cheesecake and everything in between. I love the savory side of pumpkin too, but my true love comes from the spices you normally associate with pumpkin: cinnamon and nutmeg.
My love for cinnamon is almost as deep as my love for soup. I keep two different kinds of cinnamon in my kitchen. That’s right, I have two kinds- don’t act surprised.
My favorite place to shop for spices is Savory Spice here in Denver. Their spices are freshly ground in the shop on a weekly basis and they have a fantastic selection. My absolute favorite kind of cinnamon (the kind I used in this recipe) comes from this shop. It is Vietnamese Saigon cassia cinnamon. If you imagine walking into a room where someone has just baked cinnamon rolls- this is exactly what this cinnamon smells like. I still remember the first time I smelled it, it was so pungent and intoxicating; my mind was reeling with recipes I could make with this delicious spice.
“True” cinnamon comes from bark, which comes from the cinnamon tree. True cinnamon is called Ceylon cinnamon (because it’s native of Ceylon, Sri Lanka). In the United States what we known as cinnamon is actually the bark of the Cassia tree, which is native to both China and Saigon and a few other select regions. The cinnamon that is in Chinese five spice is Cassia cinnamon, whereas the cinnamon that is commonly used in Mexican hot cocoa (and many Mexican dishes) is Ceylon. For me, the main distinction is the pungency and the sweetness. I find Ceylon to taste more muted and with a slightly spicy undertone; whereas cassia has an intense “cinnamon” flavor and is spicy and almost sweet. They both have their place in my kitchen, but Vietnamese Saigon Cassia Cinnamon is my go to baking cinnamon (and also one of my go to housewarming gifts).
About the nutmeg- for the love of all that is delicious just use fresh ground. Whole nutmeg isn’t expensive and the flavor is far superior to pre-ground.
On to the recipe (finally), pumpkin bread pudding. This bread pudding is FANTASTIC. It has a bit of crunch, a lot of fall flavor, and a little sweetness from the caramel topping.
2 packages of Kings Hawiian rolls*, cut into cubes and toasted
2 cups ½ and ½
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
Pinch of salt
½ cup butter
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream
Heavy pinch of salt (to taste)
Preheat oven to 350.
Cut the rolls into 1 inch cubes and toast for 10 minutes in the oven. Put the cubes into a 9X13 baking dish and let cool slightly while you make the custard.
Whisk together ½ and ½, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, eggs and salt. Pour the mixture carefully over the bread cubes, trying to cover all area evenly. Cover and let rest for at least 15-20 minutes but up to overnight. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until the top is brown and crusty.
For the Caramel sauce:
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan combine the butter and brown sugar. Whisk together over medium high heat until the butter is melted and the sugar begins to bubble. It will go from looking a little like wet sand to starting to look like a smooth sauce; this will take about 2-3 minutes.
At this point whisk in the cream and cook for another minute until the caramel is smooth. Add the pinch of salt and whisk, serve warm, or re-warm before serving.
A few notes:
* I adore Kings Hawaiian rolls, they are delicious, and they used to be a favorite of my grandmother’s. However, you can use any kind of bread you want in bread pudding. I like the sweetness of these rolls in this recipe, but it is not required. I would recommend an egg bread of some type (such as challah). However, you can use leftover French baguette or sourdough, or really anything. The important things are that the bread is cubed (which means you need to use thick bread) and that it is slightly crusty(which you can either do by toasting it, or using day old bread). For this recipe you will need about 10 loosely packed cups of bread cubes.
I always buy dark brown sugar. More often than not, when I’m using brown sugar I am using it for the flavor. Dark brown sugar has a more rich molasses flavor to it, so for sake of flavor (and cupboard space) I just buy one type- and it’s always dark.