Charlie Palmer’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding (And a Cocktail To Go With It!)

12/16/2013 at 12:56 PM ET

Charlie Palmer's Pumpkin Bread Pudding Recipe
Courtesy Charlie Palmer

‘Tis the season to be baking. But gingerbread cookies and pumpkin pie can feel about as stale as last year’s fruitcake.

Master chef Charlie Palmer of the Burritt Room + Tavern in San Francisco offers a more sophisticated spin on festive sweets, infusing holiday-ready flavors—fig! ginger!—into his December treats.

Whip up his comforting bread pudding for jolly dinner guests in about as much time as it takes to sing Jingle Bells (hint: make the pumpkin bread ahead of time). “Everyone loves pie during the holidays, but this pretty simple recipe adds an extra dimension of flavor with the fig and ginger and will make people think you slaved over the oven all day,”  Palmer says.

The perfect complement? The appropriately named Gingerbread Flip cocktail (which, yes, is worth flipping over), which Palmer developed with head bartender Josh Trabulsi. Made with sip-able brandy and cinnamon, it’s like a holiday cookie in a glass.

Now that’s the spirit!

Gingerbread Flip Cocktail
Makes 1

1 cup brown sugar
1 oz. apple brandy (like Laird’s Applejack)
1 oz. brandy
1 tsp. allspice flavored liqueur (like St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram)
1 small egg
2 thin slices ginger root
Garnish: cinnamon, grated nutmeg, ginger snap cookie

1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water and 1 cup brown sugar to a boil, and cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature.  Store remaining syrup in jar, in a cool pantry or refrigerate.

2. Add 1 tsp. brown sugar syrup and all ingredients into shaker. Muddle ginger root, shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with ginger snap cookie and freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon, if desired.

Fig & Ginger Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Serves 6-8

½ lb dried figs, quartered,
2 cups port
1 oz. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
8 cups day-old pumpkin bread, cubed (lighter, crustier loaves work best)
8 large eggs
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cardamom
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground allspice
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
4 oz. crystallized ginger, cut into thin strips

1. In a saucepan, bring the figs, port and grated ginger to a light simmer, and remove pan from heat. Cover and let stand until the figs have absorbed most of the port, about 30 minutes. Remove the figs, and reserve any excess liquid.

2. Preheat oven 350F.

3. Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly brown on edges, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and continue to let bread air-dry, at least 20 minutes.

4. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, cream, milk, brown sugar, vanilla extract, spices and a pinch of salt; add the reserved port and beat until blended.

5. Grease a 3-quart baking dish with 1 tbsp. of butter. Toss the bread chunks with the drained figs and crystallized ginger and spoon into baking dish. Pour milk mixture over the bread and press down gently so it is absorbed evenly. Let stand for 20 minutes to ensure that bread has soaked up all the liquid.

6. Dot the top of the pudding with remaining 2 tbsp. butter and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Cover with foil, molding it to the rim of the dish. Place dish in oven and reduce temperature to 325F.

7. Bake until pudding is just set, about 30 minutes. (Remove the foil for the final 10 minutes of baking.) Transfer dish to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes.

—Brooke Showell

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