Sometimes the best dishes emerge from the random assortment of ingredients found in the forgotten reaches of your fridge. Limiting yourself to the items you have on hand has a surprisingly positive effect on creativity. Instead of wasting energy deciding among a limitless array of ingredients, you’re focused on what’s in front of you. This was how my coconut bread pudding was born – from the ashes of stale bread and leftover coconut cream.
I was in rare form and cleaning out the fridge when I came across some bread that was so hard it could cut your gums. I also unearthed half a can of coconut cream I’d given up on. My impulse was to throw both in the trash; after all this was refrigerator-purge day. Instead I harnessed my inner thrifty grandma and went to work salvaging the food.
Like any sensible cook, I decided bread pudding was the best course of action. I had a few eggs and some milk to contribute to the custard. And instead of adding white sugar to sweeten the pudding, I opted for the crystalized honey I’d neglected for months. I whipped up my wet ingredients and tossed in my hard bread for a long needed soak.
After a 45 minute stint in the oven, I sampled my improvised creation and was a bit let down. It was okay but wasn’t as sweet and moist as I had hoped. Quickly the feeling of self-doubt and failure began to set in, but before it took over I had an idea. I’d make a caramel sauce with the remaining coconut cream; and since caramel is just sugar and fat it theoretically should work…right? Miraculously, a beautiful mahogany sauce formed in my pan and my confidence was restored. I poured every bit of the caramel over the pudding and left it to soak.
The result was everything I’d hoped – sticky, ultra rich, and unapologetically coconut-y. I alone devoured the pan’s contents in 3 days flat. Not only was this dessert tasty, but it felt good to know that I didn’t let perfectly good food to go to waste. I have a theory that many of our most beloved dishes were created in this fashion, from carbonara to gazpacho. For centuries, humble cooks have made meals from what they could and over time those dishes have became tradition.
Coconut Bread Pudding with Coconut Caramel
Bread Pudding Ingredients:
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 cup sweetened coconut (shredded)
- 4 tablespoons honey
- Pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups stale bread cubed
- 1 teaspoon butter
Coconut Caramel Ingredients:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons coconut cream
- Pinch of salt
In a medium bowl beat eggs. Add coconut cream, milk, ½ cup shredded coconut, honey, and a pinch of salt. Mix well. Stir in the bread cubes and make sure there are submerged in the custard mixture. Cover and let sit for at least 1 hour (up to 4 hours depending on how hard your bread is).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the inside of a baking dish (I used a loaf pan). Pour in your bread pudding mixture. Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of shredded coconut and bake for 15 more minutes. Remove from heat and let cool at room temperature.
In a medium sauce pan heat sugar over medium heat. Mix the sugar until all the crystals have melted and is caramel color. Add 6 tablespoons of coconut cream. Cook for 1 minute longer. Add a pinch of salt and remove from heat.
Pour the coconut caramel over the bread pudding. You can serve immediately or let the caramel soak into the pudding. Either way its delicious.