I started the weekend wanting to make a butternut squash bread pudding. My thoughts, leaning in a savory direction, changed course when I got it in my head to use coconut milk instead of cream. From there I entertained adding fresh ginger for warmth, maple for a touch of sweetness and pecans for their fragrant notes -- all to complement the natural nutty goodness of butternut squash. While this was baking, I realized that this could still hold its own on a Thanksgiving menu, perhaps giving candied yams a night off; to be sure, I enjoyed one serving with turkey (a coincidence tonight at my extended family’s Sunday dinner) and a second with vanilla ice cream. Since I intentionally made the pudding only subtly sweet, it worked both ways, you will have to decide if you want it for dinner or dessert. —gingerroot
Test Kitchen Notes
This recipe walks a fine line between savory and sweet, and leaves it up to you to decide its fate. As gingerroot mentions, it could be served as a side at Thanksgiving or as dessert with a scoop of ice cream. The roasted butternut squash adds a nice twist to bread pudding, while the candied pecans add just a touch of sweetness and a wonderful crunch. —figgypudding
French baguette, at least one day old
butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
golden brown sugar
unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Slice day old baguette and cut into 1-inch cubes. You should end up with about 8 cups of cubed bread. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400°F.
Use a traditional Japanese metal ginger grater (oroshigane), or microplane, to grate peeled ginger to a pulpy puree. You should end up with one generous teaspoon of mostly fiber free ginger. (The oroshigane has fine metal teeth that separate the stringy fibrous parts of the ginger from the pulp and juice).
Make Squash: Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, add butternut squash cubes, ginger pulp, brown sugar, butter cubes, and salt. Toss to combine mixture. Spread out in a single layer on foil. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring mixture with a wooden spoon half way through cooking. Remove pan from oven; squash should be fragrant and just tender. Allow squash to cool, and then transfer to a bowl. Turn oven off. (Squash can be made ahead; cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate if preparing hours in advance.)
Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Toast pecans in dry pan, stirring, until fragrant and beginning to brown, 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to burn pecans. Add maple syrup, stirring to combine, cook about one minute more. Remove pan from heat and sprinkle pecans with sea salt. Stir to combine. Allow pecans to thoroughly cool (they should harden) and transfer to an airtight container.
Butter a 13 x 9 x 2 glass-baking dish. Spread 1/2 of bread cubes in a single layer. Top with 1/2 of roasted butternut. Repeat one more layer of each to use up bread and butternut. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine coconut milk, 2% milk, and maple syrup. Split 1/2 vanilla bean and carefully scrape seeds into pan. Stir mixture to combine and slowly heat until warm, but not hot (can put clean finger in liquid without burning).
In a separate bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Temper eggs by slowly adding 1 cup of warmed milk-maple mixture into eggs, whisking to combine. Slowly whisk egg-milk mixture back into saucepan of warmed milk, and cook for a minute more. Remove from heat. Ladle warm custard over butternut-bread mixture, lightly pressing down on bread to submerge in liquid. Allow mixture to cool slightly, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to three hours.
When ready to bake bread pudding, preheat oven to 350°F. Remove bread pudding from refrigerator and bring to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Top bread pudding with maple pecans and bake for 30-35 minutes until pudding has puffed up and custard is just set. Remove from oven and allow pudding to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy as a slightly sweet side to turkey and all the trimmings, or with vanilla ice cream -- you decide!
My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love.
Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.