Levon Wallace of Proof on Main in Louisville, Kentucky, is a chef whose enthusiasm for anything he's cooking up is palpable.
When he came to our Test Kitchen recently, he made a dish that our whole team was familiar with: bread pudding. Yet with just a few tweaks, the talented chef brought new life to this classic dessert.
Wallace roasted butternut squash until it was just tender and combined it with stale pieces of baguette and a spiced egg batter. He baked it until it just set and the top became golden brown (trust us, your kitchen will smell amazing while it's in the oven).
For added crunch, Wallace spiced some plain old bread crumbs with brown sugar and cinnamon. A dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of molasses are all that's needed to finish the magnificently aromatic dish.
To learn more, read "Proof Is in the Pudding."
Winter Squash Bread and Butter Pudding
Recipe adapted from Levon Wallace, Proof on Main, Louisville, KY
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes, plus overnight drying
Cook Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, plus overnight drying
For the Cinnamon-Spiced Bread Crumbs:
½ cup bread crumbs, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon melted butter
For the Caramelized Squash:
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
⅓ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons melted butter
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
For the Squash and Bread Pudding:
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon orange zest
4 tablespoons melted butter
1½ baguettes (about 10 cups of bread), torn into large pieces and dried overnight
Whipped cream, to serve
Sorghum or molasses, to serve (optional)
1. Make the cinnamon-spiced bread crumbs: In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter until well combined.
2. Make the caramelized squash: Preheat the oven to 325°. In a mixing bowl, toss the squash with the sugars, spices, melted butter and salt. Place the squash on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until lightly caramelized and the flesh begins to soften, about 15 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and let it cool slightly.
3. Make the squash and bread pudding: Grease a 4-quart baking dish or a 12-inch cast-iron pan; set aside.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until the eggs become pale and slightly frothy. Whisk in the milk, cream, cinnamon, salt, zest and melted butter until mixture is well combined. Add the caramelized squash and torn baguette and gently toss until all the bread pieces are coated. Set aside and allow the bread mixture to soak up the liquid for 15 minutes.
5. Transfer the bread mixture to the greased baking dish. Cover with foil and bake until the bread pudding has set, about 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake until the top becomes crisp and deep golden-brown, another 25 minutes.
6. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream, topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon-spiced bread crumbs and a drizzle of the sorghum or molasses.