Bill Smith's New Orleans Bread Pudding

The Chapel Hill chef shares the recipe for his Louisiana-inspired dessert

Here’s a recipe I put together after finding some old hamburger buns that had been sitting on a counter at Crook’s Corner restaurant over the Christmas break.

12 large hamburger buns (ours are made of brioche)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups dried sour cherries (you can substitute rainsins or candied yams)
1 cup dark rum
4 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
5 cardamom buds
1 vanilla bean, split
8 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole allspice berries
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the hamburger buns into large chunks. Put them in a large bowl and toss with the nutmeg. Put the cherries in a measuring cup and cover with rum. Microwave for one minute on high. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to steep. Combine the cream and the milk with the vanilla and all of the spices in a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Beat the eggs thoroughly, then whisk them into the warm milk. Whisk in the sugar. Fold the rum and cherries into the bread, combining well. Strain the egg-milk mixture into the bread and again mix completely. Turn into a buttered baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake in a bain-marie for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more, until the center feels firm and the top has browned a little. Serve with caramel sauce and fresh whipped cream.

MAKES: At least 12 servings

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