Aromatic, sweet, and slightly tart, this bread pudding offers a touch of Middle Eastern flavor with dried apricots (a beloved fruit of the region) and cardamom, a warm spice used religiously in Persian desserts. Rounded out with nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger, it’s an elegant and pretty addition to the Thanksgiving table.
I bake this bread pudding in a loaf pan for a neater presentation. It’s sliced and garnished with rosewater whipped cream. Rosewater, also called golab, is traditional in Middle Eastern desserts. If you are new to rosewater syrup, use it with a light hand—only a few drops at first—as the flavor and aroma can be overwhelming for the uninitiated.
You can use any day-old soft bread for this recipe but egg-based breads like brioche or challah bread create the nicest texture.
For the bread pudding:
- 4 cups 1-inch bread cubes from day-old white bread or brioche bread
- 2 cups whole milk divided
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
- 1 ½ cup dried apricots
- ¼ cup candied ginger minced
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg preferably freshly grated
- ¾ cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
For the rosewater whipped cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
- ¼ teaspoon rose syrup or rosewater
- 1 drop vanilla extract
- Food grade rose petals for garnish optional
For the bread pudding:
- Place bread cubes in a large bowl. Pour 1 cup milk over the bread and mix to coat. Set aside.
- Heat a large (6 quart) saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the apricot and ginger. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the salt.
- Add the remaining cup of milk along with the cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar. Continue to heat until the sugar dissolves, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Pour the apricot milk mixture the apricots into a blender or food processor and process so that there are only very small chunks of apricot remaining.
- Add the vanilla and remove from heat to thoroughly cool.
- Once the milk mixture is cool, whisk in the eggs until well combined. Add the softened bread cubes and toss thoroughly so the bread is soaked through. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the bread to absorb more liquid.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf or terrine pan with cooking spray. Pour the bread mixture into the pan, pushing down gently with a rubber spatula to tightly pack. (Some of the milk may rise to the top of the pan).
- Cover the loaf pan with tin foil and place it in a larger baking dish and put in the preheated oven. Pour hot water into the larger baking dish until it rises about halfway up the side of the loaf pan.
- Bake until the pudding does not jiggle when shaken, about 35 minutes. Remove foil and cook 10 minutes more then remove from the oven and cool until only slightly warm.
For the rosewater whipped cream:
- Place the cream, sugar, rosewater, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium until the whipped cream holds stiff peaks. Alternatively you may whip the cream by hand with a balloon whisk or using a handheld stand mixer.
- Serve the bread pudding: Use a small offset spatula, rubber spatula or butter knife and run it around the edges of the bread pudding to loosen it. Place a large platter over the loaf pan and upturn it onto the platter. Slice into 1-inch thick slices and serve each slice topped with the rose whipped cream. Garnish with rose petals if using. Refrigerate any unused portion of pudding.