Banana Coconut Custard Bread Pudding

I spent all day today trying to figure out how to start off my NaBloPoMo month o’ blogging. After several hours of cooking, napping, bad-movie watching, reading, and other forms of dawdling, I finally decided that this rich custard-y bread pudding would be a lovely way to ease us all into this month of craziness. It’s also a good step-two recipe for those of you who followed my pumpkin challah recipe last week. (And, by the by, if you did, I want to hear from you! Was it good? Did you have any problems? Let me know…)

I wasn’t planning on making bread pudding. I was just going to pour myself a glass of water and return to the living room to watch TV. But while standing in the kitchen waiting for the tap to run cool enough to drink, I absentmindedly opened the refrigerator door and spotted two over-ripe (practically syrupy!) bananas on a plate, audibly begging me to turn them into something lovely. (Yes, audibly. My bananas talk. Don’t yours?)

“Hmm,” I thought, as I gulped down my glass of ice cold city tap water.

Remembering the bag of leftover bread bits I keep in the freezer for occasions just like this, I knew what I had to do. And just like that, I quickly found myself slicing the bananas into ½ inch rounds. A couple hours later, E and I were on the couch taking turns digging our forks into the creamy banana-coconut goodness.

This is an easy recipe, and one that I urge you to customize. I think next time I might try adding a bit of peanut butter or maybe even some caramel! I made it in two large ramekins because I’m in love with ramekins lately. I really am. I don’t know what it is, but I adore those little white porcelain dishes. Something about them just feels special. It’s like you’re eating your own *personal* dessert. And one thing I’ve learned is that people like having their own *personal* desserts. Small people (sometimes known as children) especially appreciate having their own little dishes, but adults do too.

Since this was just for my guy and me, I buttered two big ramekins (about 4” across, and 2” deep) and filled them by alternating thick cubes of leftover pumpkin challah and whole wheat bread with the banana slices and sprinkles of unsweetened shredded coconut. I added a splash of vanilla infused rum over the bread (homemade—just drop a vanilla bean into the bottle for a couple weeks), and then topped it all with a sweet vanilla custard.

A few tips: Let the custard soak in for about 30 minutes or so before baking. The bread will absorb it and you won’t end up with any dry bits at the bottom. Baking this in a water bath does wonders to keep the custard from curdling while cooking. (If you forget and cook it the regular way, don’t worry. Even the curdled custard works in bread pudding as the liquid is usually absorbed.) If you have leftovers, let them cool completely before covering with plastic and storing in the fridge. It’s good cold, but to reheat, pop in the oven at 350 for a few minutes. Whatever you do, don’t microwave—zapping does not do nice things to custard & bread.

Oh and also, it’s exceptionally lovely with a glass of white wine.
Banana Coconut Custard Bread Pudding Recipe
Serves 4

2 four-inch ramekins or one 8” baking dish
Larger baking dish to make a water bath (ramekins should fit comfortably inside)

3 cups stale bread (preferably a hearty or sweet bread like whole wheat or challah), cut into cubes
2 very ripe bananas (the more syrupy, the better)
½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2.5 cups cream or half & half
2 eggs
½ cup sugar or agave syrup
1 tablespoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled, plus more for buttering your baking dishes
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, scraped
Vanilla infused rum, optional

Generously butter ramekins. Layer bread cubes with slices of bananas and sprinkles of coconut until you reach about 2/3 up each ramekin. It’s ok if you have extra bread, but try to use up all the bananas. Splash with a bit of rum if desired. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and the shade of a lemon. Add the butter, cinnamon, vanilla, and milk and beat until well-combined.

Pour the milk mixture over the bread in the ramekins, being sure to distribute evenly between the two. The custard should reach almost to the top of each. Garnish with some more shredded coconut and a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired. Place these in a larger baking dish and let sit for 30 minutes, allowing the custard to soak into the bread.

While the custard is soaking, preheat your over to 300 degrees. Fill a kettle with water and set on the stove to boil.

When you are read to bake, place the baking dish in the middle rack and gently pour the boiling water into the pan so that it comes up about halfway up the ramekins. Bake for about 1 hour, until the custard sets and puffs up slightly.

Remove from the oven gently (it sometimes helps to use a cup to remove some of the boiling water from the dish first) and let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

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