I have a habit. A not-so-great habit, at that. A bread habit. That is, I have a tendency to buy bread and then forget about it until it’s about to go stale. Usually at that point I chuck it in the freezer and hope that I’ll find a use for it, but as we all know, the freezer is a black hole of storage that things can get lost in for months… In this case, however, it all worked out for the best, because my stash of frozen carbs was just what I needed to use up some bananas that were rapidly reaching over-ripeness on my countertop.
In other words, I made bread pudding. With bananas. And walnuts. And, just for fun, salted butterscotch sauce that I may or may not have added a shot of rum to. I highly recommend making this– it’s amazing for dessert, but may also be one of the best breakfasts for a cold winter morning that I’ve ever had.
Well, there’s a monster of a title for this dessert… but each component is so important that I just couldn’t leave any of them out!
Now that summer is drawing to a close I’ve been trying to take advantage of summer fruits as much as possible, so when I had occasion to make dessert for a crowd I decided to center it on fresh peaches, which looked great at the market and were just squeezably ripe (but sadly did not live up to their promise flavor-wise). Since one of my favorite uses of fresh fruit is to spoon it over an otherwise basic cake, I found a recipe that was only slightly fancied-up with brown butter, and pulled out my Gothic bundt pan to make it look extra pretty. For once, the cake unmolded perfectly (see tips below) and the brown butter added some nice depth of flavor. I could have stopped there, of course, but once I tasted the peaches I knew I’d need something more.
One of my enduring memories of childhood is sitting with my brother in our living room, watching old Donald Duck cartoons and eating Jello pudding pops. Only the chocolate ones, because the vanilla ones weren’t nearly as good. And when Jello stopped making them (sad!), I moved on to my next favorite frozen pudding-based treat, which involved freezing chocolate (never vanilla) pudding cups solid, then letting them thaw slightly on the counter for that signature slightly-chewy mouthfeel that you can only get from frozen pudding. It was always iffy, though, whether you’d end up with icy crystals or overly-thawed pudding, so that method was never fully satisfactory.
Well, I may not be able to get Jello-brand pudding pops anymore, but I’ve at last found the perfect replacement– homemade pudding pops. I got the recipe for the butterscotch pops from Smitten Kitchen (I swear, I should just rename this blog “Stuff from Smitten Kitchen”), and I’m going to start making these on a regular basis.
I decided the other night to make a quick batch of treats to share with some coworkers– the only criteria were that they had to be relatively fast to make (no chilling of dough or softening of butter) couldn’t require any ingredients I didn’t already have on hand, and had to be transportable (nothing too crumbly or decorated). I did a quick review of my pantry and fridge, and saw that I had a bunch of leftover shiro miso and a small can of macadamia nuts that my parents had brought me from a Hawaiian trip. Those sounded like they’d go well together, right? I figured a bar cookie or brownie would satisfy the “transportable” requirement, so I started with that.
A few Google searches later and I’d found a recipe for miso blondies from FixFeastFlair, which just so happened to call for macadamia nuts for crunch. It also called for butterscotch chips, but I figured that the white chocolate in my pantry would substitute nicely. I know that I’ve made miso blondies before, but those were deliberately cakier and less sweet so they’d go well with my dessert poutine. These were different.
I admit to loving the idea of portable desserts in mason jars– it’s hopelessly hipster-ish, but they’re just so darned cute! Even better if they have distinct layers so they have extra flair from the outside. So when Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a new “extra-luxe” recipe for butterscotch pudding the same week I had plans to bring dessert over to a friend’s house, it was as if the fates had spoken and decreed that I must make this pudding.
I assembled my mason jars and got to work– I ended up doubling the pudding recipe, which supposedly made six “petite” servings, and ended up with eight more generous servings, though the caramel sauce that accompanied it was enough for all eight without being doubled. The finished puddings were quite tasty– the sweet-saltiness of the caramel was a nice accent to the relatively mild butterscotch pudding (I used the recommended smaller amount of sugar you’ll see in Deb’s notes), and the texture was perfect.
This is a story about a delicious butterscotch sauce– but in order to fully appreciate it, you need some background on the culinary exploits leading up to it…
Our story began when I came into work this week to find a large bag of peaches on the counter, up for grabs. Unfortunately these were not exactly prime peaches– they were a bit mushy, some were bruised, and they were clearly on the verge of being good only for jam (not that jam is a bad thing). I informed the office that if there were any left at the end of the day I would take them home and make something delicious out of them, and apparently people took my words to heart, because I ended up with almost the entire bag!
I decided to make a cobbler, figuring that it would easily feed a crowd, but was somewhat stymied to realize upon cutting into the peaches that they were white peaches, rather than yellow as I’d assumed. White peaches are much milder and sweeter than their yellow cousins, and I’d never actually baked with them before, usually preferring to eat them straight out of hand. Since this was definitely not an option with these particular peaches, I decided that I’d add lemon juice and go light on the sugar, and hope for the best.
There are almost always bananas in my house– if not for eating out of hand (I like them best when there’s still a touch of green at the tips), then at least in the freezer, where I stash them when they get too brown for snacking on. There they sit until it’s time to make banana muffins for my daughter’s school snacks… unless, as happened this time, the freezer is full and there’s already a bag of blueberry muffins for her to eat, leaving no room for more!
What to do? What I always do, of course– make dessert.
So after making the eggnog I had a pint of whole milk leftover, and since we never drink whole milk (and since I have an aversion to throwing perfectly good food away), I had to think of something to make with it. I thought pudding might be nice– it’s one of the only things I use whole milk for– but I was out of eggs and didn’t have enough chocolate in the house for a really good chocolate pudding, so I turned to a tried-and-true source of recipes and found (drumroll please) butterscotch pudding.
It sounded fabulous– the warm, toasty notes of dark brown sugar, combined with the sweet creaminess of pudding– and looked simple to make. In reality I experienced a few problems, probably because I didn’t trust the recipe enough.
Butterbeer– An iconic beverage, prominently featured in the Harry Potter series and hugely popular at the Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Having heard that the recipe had been approved by J.K. Rowling herself I was eager to try it, and upon arrival at the park (after squee-ing over the storefronts and going on several rides) my friends and I purchased both varieties available– regular and frozen. We watched as the glasses were filled and topped with creamy foam from a special spigot (the bartender said that he was actually forbidden to sell it without the foam because it was such an integral part of the drink), and took our prizes to a table to taste.
Blech, was it sweet. Waaaaaayyyy too sweet. There were five of us splitting the drinks and we couldn’t come close to finishing them. And the drink contained neither butter nor beer, which seemed wrong given the name. But then– a ray of hope appeared– we had an idea. The Boar’s Head Pub, where we’d bought the sickly sweet swill, also served its own signature dark beer and maybe– just maybe– the stuff could be salvaged. We mixed the dark beer 50/50 with the sugary butterbeer, tasted it, and saw that it was good. And I decided then and there to perfect the recipe for my own butterbeer once I got home.