Irish Bread Pudding & Whiskey Sauce

Bread Pudding closeupThis week we’re sharing the recipe for one of our favorite desserts, spiked with an Irish twist just in time for St. Patrick’s Day: Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce.

We love to make bread pudding for several reasons, especially for dinner parties or bruncheons. For one thing, it’s a large-batch dessert and ridiculously easy to make, and can be made in advance and refrigerated, or even frozen, until ready to serve.

Next, it’s a great way to utilize stale or leftover bread, tastes delicious and is always a crowd-pleaser. In fact, we’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good bread pudding. We prefer to use artisan-style breads like the French bread or baguettes from the Fargo Breadsmith store, but rustic dinner rolls or even Irish soda bread would also work great. Stay away from ordinary sliced bread, as it just doesn’t have the heft to create an excellent bread pudding.

This is a classic bread pudding recipe which can be served as is or embellished in myriad ways by adding raisins or other dried fruit. F or this special occasion we’re keeping it Irish by adding a tablespoon of Jameson Irish Whiskey  and serving it with an Irish whiskey sauce.

Whenever we include a liquor in a recipe we will invariably receive an email asking if it’s safe for kids to eat. This is such a good question. As long as the liquor is cooked into the recipe, as it is here in both the bread pudding and the sauce, or in a savory sauce, then the alcohol content evaporates during the process, making the dish safe for any age to enjoy.

Because of the high egg content, bread pudding is typically cooked in a water bath at a low temperature, in this case, 300 degrees. The water bath is essential as it keeps the eggs from scrambling and ensures that the dish will be gently and evenly baked.

The Irish whiskey sauce requires a little more technique but is well worth the extra effort. It can be served immediately or refrigerated for several days, or even frozen for up to one month. The base of the sauce is a classic vanilla sauce, also known as a crème anglaise.

To make the sauce, you’ll need to scald the milk first, which helps to infuse any added flavors into the milk, in this case, the vanilla extract. Scalding is not scorching – cook the milk over medium heat just until it starts to boil and becomes frothy, then remove immediately from the heat and cool at room temperature for several minutes.

Next, egg yolks and sugar are whisked together until the mixture becomes very thick and pale yellow in color. Tony uses a whisk to mix his sauce, but it takes several minutes for the sauce to thicken and his muscles are bigger than mine, so I prefer to use my electric handheld or stand mixer instead.

The two mixtures are then combined by adding the cooled milk in a slow, steady stream to the egg and sugar mixture, and then the sauce is returned to the sauce pot to cook over medium-low heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the Irish whiskey, stir and serve by pouring over the bread pudding.

Irish Whiskey Sauce

Have a Happy St. Patty’s Day and may the luck of the Irish be ever with you!

Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce

Ingredients:
7 large eggs
1½  cups heavy cream
1½  cups milk
1 tbsp. honey
½ cup sugar
1½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Irish whiskey (optional)
¾ lbs. cubed day-old bread – use artisan-style breads or dinner rolls, or even Irish soda bread, but NOT sliced bread

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 300° F.

Combine the eggs, cream, milk, honey, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the bread cubes and mix together. Cover with a damp towel and let the mixture soak for 30 minutes at room temperature. Bake at 300° F for one hour in a water bath until golden brown.

Cool slightly and serve with Irish Whiskey Sauce.

To Store: Keep in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week. Bread pudding can also be frozen before or after baking. For best results, reheat in microwave before serving whether refrigerated or frozen.

Tony’s Tips:

  • To check for doneness, insert a toothpick into the thickest part of the pudding – when it comes out crumb-free, it’s ready.
  • For an easy sauce, melt a good-quality vanilla ice cream and add the whiskey once it’s liquid.
  • Jameson whiskey is our preference, but any Irish whiskey will do.

Irish Whiskey Sauce

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
3 egg yolks
3 ½ tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Irish whiskey

Directions:
Dissolve corn starch in 2 tablespoons of milk and set aside. In a small sauce pot, scald the remaining milk and vanilla over medium heat until the edges start to bubble. Remove from heat and add the corn starch mixture into the scalded milk. Stir to incorporate then cool at room temperature for at least five minutes.

Use a whisk or electric mixer to mix the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale yellow in color, about five minutes. Keep whisking and add the cooled-down milk in a slow, steady stream until fully combined.

Return the mixture back to the sauce pot and gently cook over medium-low heat while stirring, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be careful not to bring the sauce to a boil. Stir in the Irish whiskey and remove from stove.

Serve immediately over bread pudding or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days. Reheat before use if desired.

Tony’s Tips:

  • Sauce can be frozen for up to one month.
  • Irish cream liqueur or any other flavored liqueur would also work great.

St. Paddy’s Day Inspiration: Irish Potato Leek Soup

Potato Leek SoupIt’s that time of year when I gently remind Tony that there is another cultural heritage to be celebrated in our family. I’m a classic blend of North Dakotan ancestry with German – both from Germany and from Russia – on one side, and Norwegian on the other. But, lucky for me and our son, Gio, both sides also have a healthy dose of Irish, and each March we get downright giddy about that. We like to celebrate our Irish-ness all month long, and this week we’re kicking off the festivities with Irish Potato Leek Soup.

This is a very simple recipe with just a few ingredients, and the result is comforting and delicious. Russet (or Idaho) potatoes are perfect for this soup, but we’ve also used Yukon Golds which bring color and extra creaminess to the dish. In Ireland as well as here at home, there is a love and passion for potatoes that translates neatly into soup, especially when paired with leeks, another favorite among the Irish.

Idaho potatoes (2) (640x320)

Leeks are a member of the allium family, which also includes onions and garlic. With their unique combination of flavonoids, vitamins and minerals, Alliums are believed to help boost immunity and are a valuable addition to a healthy diet.

The Irish firmly believe in their healing properties, due in large part to a legend about St. Patrick consoling a dying woman. When she shares with him her vision of being healed by an herb, he asks her to describe what it looked like and she tells him that it resembled marsh rushes. St. Patrick leaves and comes back with some rushes, which he then transforms into leeks. The woman eats the leeks and is healed, and the leek is forever immortalized in Irish cuisine.

Leeks have two harvest seasons, winter and summer, and can be easily found in our local markets. They have a milder, more delicate flavor than regular onions or scallions, which makes them a wonderful choice for this soup. Potato leek soup can be found across cultures, and other popular versions include the chilled vichyssoise found in French cuisine, as well as Scotland’s classic cock-a-leekie soup.

Leeks

The leeks will have some grit inside the leaves, so it’s important to clean them before using. Use a sharp knife to slice them in half lengthwise, from top to bottom, and then fan the leaves out while rinsing under cold water to remove any grit. Once washed, remove the top green leaves and root end and cut into ¼’ inch slices.

The soup will be pureed so the slices don’t have to be pretty, but they should be of consistent size to ensure even cooking, and the garlic cloves can be left whole. We use chicken stock for extra flavor, but vegetable stock or even water may be used instead. Heavy cream is essential to this soup, as it brings a boost of flavor and velvety finish to the soup. To ensure a smooth and creamy texture, Tony encourages you to “blitz the heck out of it” with your handheld or liquid blender.

Potatoes are such a neutral flavor that this soup can be garnished with a variety of toppings, including fresh chives, crumbled bacon, sautéed leeks, fresh herbs, or brightly colored microgreens, as featured today.

March has come in like a lamb and may go out like a lion, but with the luck of the Irish on our side and the comfort of Irish potato leek soup, we’re ready for anything. Erin go bragh!

Enjoy these other Irish-inspired recipes from previously featured posts:

Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur
Poached Salmon in Leek Cream Sauce
Baileys Irish Cream Cheesecake

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Celebrate National Pancake Day with Bacon Pancakes!

Homemade Bacon Pancakes

Today is National Pancake Day, and we have a great recipe to share with you. One of our absolute favorite breakfast specialties is Homemade Bacon Pancakes, and cooking them in a bit of bacon grease takes them to a whole new level.

This recipe is easy to follow and the pancakes are beyond delicious. We serve our homemade bacon pancakes with real maple syrup, our easy fresh fruit salad, and of course, bacon. We prefer to use Dakota Maid all-purpose flour, which we find has a lighter texture to it than other flour brands. Plus, it’s nice to support our locally-produced products!

You can click on the links in this post for the recipes, or read more about our homemade bacon pancakes and easy fresh fruit salad in a vintage post from July 23, 2013.

We hope you give them a try – you’ll never go back to box-mix pancakes again!

Do you make pancakes from scratch, and if so, what is your favorite way to prepare them? Do you use a box mix? Which one? LET US KNOW!

Sunday Dinner Main Course: Pork Saltimbocca

Pork Saltimbocca 1

Tony, our son Gio, and I enjoy coming up with dinner menus inspired by new recipes or just some of our favorite dishes, and this week’s Scaloppine of Pork Saltimbocca is the perfect main course for a Sunday dinner.

When translated from Italian to English, saltimbocca means “jump in your mouth,” and once you try this savory specialty you’ll understand why. Our version of this dish features tender cutlets of pork tenderloin topped with salty prosciutto ham, mild and creamy fresh mozzarella cheese, and fresh sage leaves, complemented with a lemon butter sauce. These flavors are well-balanced and relaxed with each other, and Tony likes to say that the taste experience “dances on the tongue.”

Roman in origin, a saltimbocca dish traditionally features veal, but this high-end meat can be expensive and is often difficult to find in our region. Instead, we’ve found pork tenderloin to be a great substitute, as its excellent flavor and tenderness work well with the scaloppine preparation.

Scaloppine is a method in Italian cuisine where slices of meat (typically veal, but chicken and pork can also be used) are pounded into thin, tender cutlets, or scallops. The cutlets are then dredged in flour and quickly pan-fried, then served with a tomato or wine-based sauce. We love preparing meat this way, as it cooks in minutes and comes out unbelievably tender.

The process for Pork Saltimbocca is an easy one, but requires some advance preparation as several ingredients may not be staples in your pantry. To begin, a whole pork tenderloin is sliced into half-inch medallions, which are then pounded with a meat mallet until they are about 1/8-inch thick. This step can be done up to one day in advance if desired.

Pork Saltimbocca Ingredients 2

Each cutlet is lightly dredged in flour and pan-fried on each side in olive oil for about one to two minutes, then transferred to a baking sheet and topped with a slice of prosciutto and fresh mozzarella to be finished in the oven. The sauce for this dish is a simple lemon butter sauce which must be prepared just before serving, so it’s important to wait until the sauce is ready before baking the cutlets.

The same pan is used to make the sauce so that all those leftover little brown bits of meat can bring flavor and depth to the dish. Lemon juice, white wine and water are cooked over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by half and those savory brown bits have been freed from the bottom of the pan, about three to five minutes. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to coax the bits loose as the sauce thickens. For extra flavor, chicken or vegetable stock may be used instead of water.

A teaspoon of sugar is added, along with a pinch of salt and pepper, and then two tablespoons of butter are stirred in as the sauce continues to reduce over medium-low heat for three to five minutes, until all of the ingredients are fully combined and the sauce has achieved a light, silky consistency. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting to keep the sauce warm while the pork cutlets bake in the oven for about three minutes, until the cheese melts and the prosciutto crisps up just a bit.

Transfer the finished cutlets to serving plates or a platter and top with fresh sage leaves followed by the lemon butter sauce. Serve with roasted or whipped potatoes, or linguini tossed in a little bit of garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

CLICK HERE for Scaloppine of Pork Saltimbocca RECIPE
CLICK HERE for Lemon Butter Sauce RECIPE