Recognize this guy?

That’s Big Al Brooks (CHS ’77), my best friend for a long time now.

I’m going to do y’all a big favor and share his recipe for white chocolate-banana bread pudding with Bourbon caramel sauce.  This stuff sells like hotcakes.  Sometimes I think I could open a shop that sold nothing but, and do quite well.

Making your own caramel sauce might seem a little daunting, but it’s really pretty easy.

Anyway, here we go.

Preheat your oven to 350º.

4 bananas (very ripe)

1 1/4 c. sugar

1/3 lb. butter, softened

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

Whip the bananas with the sugar.  Add the butter, eggs, and vanilla extract.  Get all that combined, and then add the remaining dry ingredients*.  Spoon it into your loaf pans (which you have sprayed with that non-stick spray stuff) and let ’em bake for about an hour.  Make sure they’re done, and then let them cool (make the custard–below–while you’re waiting for the bread to cool) and cut them into cubes, about 1″.  Dump them into however many pans it requires.   Now turn your oven down to 325º.

*–If you want, at this point, you can fold in some raisins or nuts (crushed walnuts or macadamias would be nice).

Okay, the custard.  What follows is a pretty standard custard formula–dairy, eggs, sugar, vanilla, a bit of salt–but with the addition of white chocolate.

2 c. milk

1/2 c. + 1/2 c. heavy cream (keep them separate–you’ll see why momentarily)

3 eggs

2 yolks

1/2 Tbsp. + 2 Tbsp. sugar (again, keep them separate)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

12 oz. white chocolate, melted

Heat the milk, 1/2 c. cream just until it begins to get hot; whisk in the white chocolate.  In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together well.  Add a little of the hot milk mixture–a few tablespoons–to the egg mixture, and whisk it.  Whisk in a few more tablespoons, and then a few more.  Now slowly whisk all of the egg mixture back into the hot milk mixture (this process is called “termpering.”  It basically keeps you from winding up with scrambled eggs).  Pour all of the custard over the bread in the pans.  Let it sit and soak for half an hour or so, giving it a bit of a smoosh with a big spoon or something (you could be like me and use your hands) every now and then.  Set each pan into a larger pan and add hot water about half-way up the level of the pudding (that’s what’s called a water bath, bain marie, or baña maria.  “Mary’s bath”?  No idea why).  Carefully put them into your oven and let them bake for about an hour (smaller pans won’t take as long).  When you have about fifteen minutes left, drizzle the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 cup heavy cream.

Now for the Bourbon caramel sauce:

1/2 c. water

1 lb. sugar

1 pt. heavy cream

1/4 c. Bourbon

Put the water and sugar in a saucepot and set that on a medium flame.  Don’t whisk it or stir or anything, but do have a little bowl or mug of water handy, along with a heat-resistant brush.  Every now and then, brush the inside of the saucepot with some water (the idea here is that you’re washing the sugar back down into the pot, which helps keep it from “seizing”–forming a massive, umanageable clump).  This process takes patience.  For a long time, it’ll look like nothing’s happening.  Keep brushing the inside of the pot with water anyway (once every minute or two should do it).  Suddenly, out of the blue, it’ll start looking and smelling like caramel (you’ll know it when it happens–believe me).  Now’s when you have to be really attentive, because you can go from caramel to burned sugar in a pretty short amount of time.  Once it starts to smell like caramel, let it go another minute or two, to get a nice caramel color and flavor, but don’t let it go longer than that, lest you wind up with blackened sugar.  Take it off the heat and right away slowly whisk in the cream.  It’ll sputter and splatter and pop and sizzle, so be careful and don’t be alarmed.  Once it’s all consistent, whisk in the Bourbon.  Let it cool and serve it with the bread pudding.  The Bourbon caramel will keep pretty much forever, in the unlikely event that you have any left over.

I’d include a picture of this delightful dessert, but I don’t have one.  No great loss, really:  Bread pudding isn’t much to look at.  But it tastes like a million damned dollars.

Let me know if you have any questions, like how to tell when the bread’s done or melt the white chocolate or tame the caramel.  Whatever.

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