Pumpkin pie is a staple on most Thanksgiving tables, but after serving it up year in and year out, a pumpkin pie can start to seem a little bit boring. Fortunately, pie isn’t the only way to use pumpkin and this Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding is a great alternative to a traditional pumpkin pie recipe while still using all those familiar holiday flavors.
The base for this bread pudding is not unlike the filling for a pumpkin pie. It uses milk, eggs, pumpkin puree, brown sugar and spices. The difference between this bread pudding base and a pie filling, of course, is in the bread. The bread soaks up the filling and turns into a dessert that is somewhere between a custard and a cake as it bakes in the oven. It is very moist and tender, but firm enough that it is easy to slice and serve. It has a great pumpkin and spice flavor, too.
You can mix up the base in a couple of minutes and have your pudding in the oven before you know it. It is so easy to make that you can easily justify whipping up a batch anytime you’re in the mood for some comfort food, even though it can look quite elegant after it is plated up with a little bit of whipped cream for a special holiday dinner.
People often say that you need to use stale bread or toasted bread for bread pudding, but fresh bread is absolutely fine to use and will soak up about the same amount of the pumpkin base as dried out bread. You can use any white sandwich bread, or you could up for a richer challah or brioche.
More important than the type of bread you are using is that your bread should be cut roughly equal pieces. This will allow the bread to soak up the pumpkin base much more evenly and will, in turn, produce a better finished bread pudding.
I like to add chopped, toasted pecans to my bread pudding to give it a little bit of extra texture. They add a nice crunch to the soft pudding. Toasted walnuts can be substituted if you don’t have pecans, and you can also use chocolate chips if you want to make your bread pudding a bit richer!
Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding
Yield: 9 Servings
- 1 1/2 cups milk, whole or low-fat
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cups brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 6 cups cubed bread, pref. challah or brioche
- 2/3 cup coarsely chopped, toasted pecans
- 2 tbsp sugar + 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, for topping
Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease an 8 × 8-inch baking pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, pumpkin puree, brown sugar, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice until very smooth.
Place cubed bread in a large bowl, and pour pumpkin mixture over the top. Use a spatula to gently fold the bread cubes until they are well coated. Allow bread mixture to stand for 5-10 minutes to soak up the custard.
Pour bread mixture into prepared pan and spread it into an even layer. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle over the top of the bread pudding. Bake for 30 minutes, until the pudding springs back when lightly pressed and a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Leftovers should be cooled completely and stored in the refrigerator.