The other great feature of bread pudding, of course, is how versatile it can be flavor-wise. Tonight, I decided to do a bread pudding with the flavors of Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine - notably rose-flower water, cardamom, and pistachios. This dessert would be the perfect ending to any tagine or Indian entree.
The only reason this particular recipe posed a challenge for a vegan is that it called for evaporated milk. Available in a can to a dairy eater, the vegan chef has to do a little prep work and make her own. Of course, the quick method is to stir double the concentration of soy or rice milk powder into water, but I actually prefer the slow method: pour 3 cups of plain non-dairy milk into a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until reduced to 1 and 1/2 cups, stirring constantly (it will take about 1 and 1/2 hours). The process can be remarkably fun with some music going in the background and a book or magazine on hand to read while you stir! Or, as I did this afternoon, it's great time to zone out and think and take a pause from a busy day. I recommend making your evaporated non-dairy milk ahead of time (it will keep in the fridge for about 5-7 days), so you can assemble this bread pudding in a pinch the day you make it.
Now on to the Indian Bread Pudding...
For the pudding:
- 9 (1-ounce) slices white bread
- 2 tablespoons melted vegan butter
- Cooking spray
- 1 cup evaporated non-dairy milk
- 3 tablespoons vegan sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon rose-flower water
- 2 tablespoons vegan sugar
- 2 Ener-G egg yolks
- 1 cup plain non-dairy milk
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped pistachios
2. Cool the bread on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then cut each slice into 4 squares (so you have 36 pieces of toast in total). Arrange the toast pieces in overlapping rows in an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. My fiance was in the kitchen as I worked on this step, and remarked, "That looks so cute!"
3. In a bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, 3 tablespoons vegan sugar, and the rose-flower water. Pour evenly over the bread, then cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. As always when I make recipes that offer long variations in chilling time, I aim for about the halfway mark, so I prepared my bread pudding about 2 and 1/2 hours in advance.
4. To bake the pudding, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
5. While the pudding bakes, make the sauce: whisk 1 tablespoon Ener-G egg replacer into 2 tablespoons warm water to make the equivalent of 2 egg yolks. Combine the Ener-G mixture with 2 tablespoons vegan sugar in a medium-sized bowl.
6. Heat 1 cup non-dairy milk in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until bubbles form around the edges, but before it comes to a boil. I've learned that even though recipes calling for dairy milk say this step will happen at 180 degrees, non-dairy milk gets there faster, closer to 150 or 160 degrees... so watch your saucepan carefully, and use a thermometer as a guide.
7. Gradually add the hot milk to the Ener-G mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and continue to cook over low heat for 6 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. The sauce should be thick enough by now to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the burner and stir in the cardamom. Place the saucepan in a large bowl filled with ice and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally (it should only take about 5 minutes). Be careful not to let the saucepan sit in the ice too long, or the sauce will begin to seize up.
6 servings (6 bread squares, 2 and 1/2 tablespoons sauce, 1/2 teaspoon pistachios), Calories 272
Right off the bat: sublime. The hints of cardamom and the sweetness of the evaporated soy milk came through instantly. The toasted bread pieces were crisp on the outside but melt-in-your-mouth on the underside where they had soaked the most during chilling. The one flavor that didn't come through as much as I hoped was the rose-flower water, so I would highly recommend upping the amount to 1/2 teaspoon if you want it to shine through. Overall, eating this made me think it would easily translate into amazing French toast for breakfast - I would toast the bread the same way, dip in a milk/cardamom mixture before cooking in a skillet, and serve with pistachios sprinkled on top.