Pumpkin Bread Pudding

To make a gluten-free pumpkin bread pudding, you gotta break some eggs. So no, this not a vegan recipe. But it is dairy-free. And it is delicious. Perfect for the holidays, bread pudding is a classic. And so easy to make.

Adding pumpkin to the usual egg custard gives it that special, sparkly holiday flair. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar- after it cools a bit- and it looks elegant. Impressive, even. It makes a lovely brunch side dish, or comfort food style dessert on a snowy night. And it's even tasty for Christmas breakfast. You can make it ahead of time- a definite plus for the annual holiday hustle.

An added bonus- my pumpkin bread pudding recipe uses creamy coconut milk. The flavor? Superb.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons Earth Balance stick (or butter if you prefer)
4 Udi's Classic Hamburger Buns (10.4 ounces) or GF Rolls
6 large free-range organic eggs, beaten
1 14-oz can pumpkin puree
1 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon McCormick's Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Cinnamon
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325º.

2. Rub a tablespoon of Earth Balance stick/or butter inside a 6-cup baking dish. Set aside.

3. Slice the Udi's Classic Hamburger Buns crosswise into strips and lay the pieces on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Lightly toast them in the oven until slightly golden- roughly 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

4. While the bun pieces are toasting, make your custard. Combine the beaten eggs, canned pumpkin, coconut milk, maple syrup, light brown sugar, Pumpkin Pie Spice, vanilla and sea salt in a large mixing bowl and beat well- until smooth and creamy.

5. Place the toasted bun pieces in a large shallow pan, or baking dish, and pour the custard mixture all over the bread, gently turning over the pieces to coat all sides. Allow the custard to seep into the pieces- much like French toast. Don't stir too often or vigorously, or the pieces will fall apart. Soak for 10 minutes or so- pressing down gently to get all the custard inside the pieces.

6. Carefully transfer the bread pudding mixture to the prepared baking dish and arrange the pieces evenly. Melt one tablespoon of Earth Balance stick and drizzle it all over the top of the pudding. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.

7. Set the baking dish inside a larger, sturdy pan- a roasting pan, for instance. Set the pans on the middle oven rack. Pour 2 inches of hot water in the larger pan, around the baking dish to bake the pudding in a water bath. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes; check for browning. If the top is browning by this point, cover it loosely with a piece of foil. Continue to bake for another 20 to 30 minutes until the custard is set all the way through. A thin knife inserted into the center should emerge clean.

(Note- if the custard is very cold, it may take longer to bake through- up to an hour.)

8. Carefully remove the pans from the oven. Take the pudding dish out of the water bath and set it on a wire rack to cool a bit.

9. Sift powdered sugar on the top right before serving.

Serves 6.

Additional Info:

The trick to baking a pudding with gluten-free bread is to treat it gently. Gluten-free bread lacks the tried-and-true stretch and tenacity gluten imparts to standard wheat bread. If you soak gluten-free bread too long it turns to mush. So soak gently. And keep a tender eye on it as it bakes.

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