The Bat is not the biggest fan of bread puddings. In fact, I think, she'd use stale bread as the base for those tacky glue-and-bread sculptures some of our friends did when we were much younger, rather than sit down at a table and swallow most bread pudding. Honestly, in her mind, if your bread wasn't good enough to be eaten before it got stale, you're just not trying, and you might as well feed it to the outdoor critters (and attract something the dog can chase up a tree, at the same time).
Still, stale bread got rescued. And it got puddinged. And it didn't end up being all custardy, the way so many bread puddings are (the only custard our family generally likes is the one going into a pumpkin pie). For starters, we don't use no sissy French stuff. We like bread with substance. Good, dense, fill-you-up-and-stick-to-your-ribs sourdough is my bread of choice, and, believe it or not, the best I've found in our limited region comes from the bakery section of our Super WalMart. Don't get the "sandwich sourdough," though, because it's still a little on the fluffy side. Get the real, crusty, tooth-resistant stuff. Barring access to WalMart (or, if you are too snooty to go there), see if you can find some San Francisco Sourdough, or something comparable. It's not just about texture, but also the tangy flavor....
Now, this week, somebody who shall remain nameless broke into the loaf of sourdough and had a couple of sandwiches, so I didn't have quite enough of it to make the recipe I was working from... what to do, what do do? Hmmm..... this heel of so-called pumpernickel (it's really not heavy enough to be actual pump, but is just a reasonably good local dark rye loaf) might be enough to fill in to make a pound of bread... cut into roughly one-inch cubes, the combo ends up being about a dozen cups, so... beautiful. And it even looks unusually pretty, once you add the dried cranberries...
And so, to bake.
Apple Cardamom Bread Pudding
1 lb dense day-old bread, cut or torn into roughly 1-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
2 medium baking (tart-ish) apples, grated (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup apple syrup*
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1 cup milk
1 cup dried cranberries
In a large bowl, whisk eggs and grated apple until well-mixed. Add in syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, salt, cream and milk. Mix well.
In a large baking dish, toss bread crumbs and dried cranberries until evenly distributed.
Pour liquid over bread cubes, stir until all the bread is evenly coated. Cover. Refrigerate 30 minutes or so.
Preheat oven to 350º F. (175º C). Uncover baking dish.
Bake about 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Serve warm. **
*The syrup I used is residual sauce from the last time the Bat made Apple Slices. She set aside about 7 pints in jars, & I raided one of them, today. If you don't have a mother who is so courteous as to leave you this tasty treat with which to work, look for a good apple-flavored syrup at the store and add a little extra cinnamon & nutmeg to the recipe here, to ratchet it up a notch.
**Can be topped with more apple syrup, or chopped pecans and praline syrup, if you're a sugar junkie. I've even drizzled a dark fudge sauce on it, but then, I could probably put that particular fudge sauce on pizza and still be happy. I'm just that way about dark chocolate.