This Rustic Fruit Dessert cookbook is one that has been sitting in my pantry for years, looking at me all dusty and sad every time I open the cabinet doors and grab something else. In all honesty it was an impulse buy – years before hubby and I had kids we went on a wine vacation weekend in Walla Walla, Washington. I believe we were feeling a little sauced up already and were tasting at Woodward Canyon (fantastic wines, btw), and I just could not resist their gift shop… this cookbook was sitting on their shelves and made it home with me along with a good bottle of Chardonnay. I had good intentions to use it but never did!
Fast-forward YEARS later and I decide it is time for this cookbook to have its moment. We had a special event come up in our family that I thought it would be fun to make a dessert for. Funny enough, we totally over-ate the night I planned to make this, so I ended up serving it as brunch instead the next morning! It has some bread pudding/baked french toast vibes, so honestly it wasn’t inappropriate as a Sunday brunch item, but would be nice spring or summer fruit dessert too. One nice thing about making it as a breakfast item was I had leftover egg whites and just scrambled them up as a side instead of letting them go to waste.
A few notes on prep and ingredients: any type of bread cubes can be used, but I particularly enjoy a Brioche or Challah. I think either of these are a nice touch that increases the richness of the recipe. However if you do decide to go this route you can omit the 2 tablespoons of sugar as it is overkill. Also, I have found that if you simply cube your bread the night before and let it sit out there is no need to toast it in the oven as it will stale to a good consistency. This is my preference for consistency, but if you don’t have the extra time to let the bread sit out and get hard, toasting works just fine! Lastly, fresh raspberries are a must, do not use frozen.
-6 oven-safe ramekins
-mesh sieve or any fine sifting device
-1 Tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature (for buttering dishes)
-3 to 4 Cups small (approx 14 inch) bread cubes (I prefer more bread with my custard)
-1/4 Cup unsalted butter melted
-2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
For the Pasty Cream:
-Seeds Scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean
-2 Cups half and half
-2/3 Cup granulated sugar
-1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
-6 egg yolks
-1 Tablespoon corn starch
-1/2 pint washed and dried fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter your ramekins. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes (not needed if you left the bread out to stale instead). Once cooled, toss the bread with the melted butter and sugar (again, sugar not needed if using a richer bread like Brioche or Challah).
To make the pastry cream, put the vanilla bean seeds in a saucepan. Add the half and half and vanilla pod and cook over medium-low heat until hot but not boiling. Separately whisk the sugar and salt into the egg yolks and continue whisking until slightly thickened and lighter in color. Add the cornstarch and whisk until combined. Slowly pour half of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, stirring constantly until well blended. Pour the yolk mixture into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and stir frequently until cool.
Distribute half of the bread cubes among the prepared ramekins. Pour the pastry cream over the bread cubes, then put the berries atop the pastry cream. Top with remaining bread cubes. Bake for 15 minutes or until the tops have browned and the berries bleed slightly. Cool to room temperature and serve fresh.
X.O. – Abbey Co.
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