Bananas Foster Bread Pudding

Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and extra toasted pecans.

Bananas Foster is a flaming, rum-soaked dessert that’s synonymous with New Orleans. Invented by Brennan’s Restaurant in 1951, the restaurant now flambés more than 35,000 pounds of bananas each year to serve over ice cream with a boozy caramel sauce that’s prepared tableside. Celebrate Mardi Gras this month with my homage to the famous dessert, which requires far less fire and fanfare than the traditional dish.

When I worked as pastry chef at Sidney Street Cafe in St. Louis, the restaurant would close on the day of the Mardi Gras parade to throw a huge dinner and party for staff and friends. One year, I developed a version of this same bread pudding with chef-owner Kevin Nashan, yet I must sheepishly admit, we used store-bought king cake for the bread – our shared love of New Orleans and Mardi Gras made us do it! Here, the base of the bread pudding is banana bread (developed by my lovely business partner Nancy Boehm), but any tender baked good will do: king cake, croissants, cake donuts, cinnamon rolls or even white bread.

Bananas Foster Bread Pudding

Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and extra toasted pecans.

Serves | 8 to 10 |

Banana Bread (Yields 2 large loaves)

  • 3¾ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 4 overripe bananas
  • 2¼ cups tightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 oz whole milk, divided

Custard

  • ½ cup tightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp dark rum
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream

Foster Sauce

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup tightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp honey or corn syrup
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup banana liqueur
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • 1 cup pecan pieces, toasted (optional)

| Preparation – Banana Bread | Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 2 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.

In a mixing bowl, sift flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat bananas, brown sugar and salt on medium speed until smooth. With mixer running, add oil, eggs and vanilla until combined. Reduce mixer to low, add ¹⁄₃ dry ingredients and ½ milk; repeat until fully incorporated. Divide evenly between 2 prepared pans; bake until golden brown, 55 to 60 minutes. Cool bread in pans for 10 minutes.

| Preparation – Custard | In a mixing bowl, whisk all ingredients together until smooth and thoroughly combined.

| Preparation – Foster Sauce | In a saucepot over medium-high heat, heat all ingredients except alcohol and pecans until thick and bubbly, 5 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat, add liqueur, rum and pecans. Allow to cool.

| Assembly | Preheat oven to 350°F. Cube bread and add to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour custard over top and bake until firm, 45 to 60 minutes. Pour cooled sauce over bread pudding and bake 10 minutes more. Serve.

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