In my favorite version of bread pudding, the bread is suspended in a rich custard and scattered with one deep purple huckleberries from our local forests. The pudding is accented with two sauces, one made with huckleberries and the other a velvety custard. Fresh or frozen huckleberries can be used with the same delicious results. If you’re using frozen berries, do not defrost them.
• 1 cup huckleberries
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup water
• 1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
• 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
Stir all ingredients together in a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes until berries become soft and syrupy. Remove from heat and set aside until sauce reaches room temperature.
Vanilla Bean Crème Anglaise
• 4 egg yolks
• 3 Tbsp. sugar
• Pinch salt
• 1 tsp. cornstarch
• 1 1/2 cups milk
• One 3-inch vanilla bean
In a mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar, and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat until thick and light in color (about 3 minutes). Mix in corn starch. Slit vanilla bean and remove seeds. Add vanilla bean and milk to saucepan and scald milk. Slowly pour in scalded milk into egg mixture, and mix slowly. Return mixture to sauce pan and slowly heat until it reaches 165 degrees. The sauce should be the consistency of heavy cream. Pour thru a strainer and chill.
• 1 loaf (16oz.) unsliced challah or brioche bread
• 4 large eggs
• 2 egg yolks
• 1 cup sugar
• 3 cups heavy cream
• 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
• Pinch salt
• 2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier liqueur
• 1 1/2 cups huckleberries
Cut off ends of bread and discard. Cut bread into one-inch cubes and allow to dry on a baking pan uncovered for a couple of days, tossing occasionally.
To prepare the custard, whisk together whole eggs, yolks, sugar, cream, vanilla, salt and Grand Marnier until blended. Refrigerate.
Put dried bread into a large bowl and add half the custard mixture. Toss to coat. Let sit for 15 minutes until bread is soft and almost mushy. Pour one layer of bread into greased 7”x11” inch baking dish and sprinkle with half the berries. Top with remaining bread and remaining berries. Whisk the reserved custard and pour on top. Push down on the custard bread with a spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and foil.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place the pudding dish in a water bath (3-4 inches of hot water in a roasting pan). Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Allow to sit, but serve warm. Serve within one hour after baking, or reheat to 300 degrees.
To plate, use crème anglaise to cover the dessert plate. Spoon bread pudding on top, and top pudding with huckleberry sauce.
Howard Karp is the executive chef at The Culinary Institute of Montana at Flathead Valley Community College. For more information about the program, visit www.culinaryinstituteofmt.com.