Oh, Sweet Thing! Bread Pudding is My Everything
My sweet tooth is a blessing and a curse, and the very cause of much internal conflict. However, I’ve slowly come to accept that when it comes to me and sugar, restraint almost is non-existent — nothing stands in my way. My dentist sure does love me … and oh, how I love those therapeutic teeth cleanings. OK, I digress.
We all have those moments in time that change our lives forever. No matter how big or small, they’re lodged in our memories for better or for worse. I still remember the first time I tasted bread pudding. No, it wasn’t in New Orleans, the birthplace of this heavenly concoction. Instead, it was at my friend’s house, almost a decade ago, where I was partaking in my second Thanksgiving dinner of the evening.
I remember asking myself, “Is this supposed to be stuffing?” For a second or two, I contemplated whether or not to give it a try. Well, I did. I scooped a bit onto my plate (not realizing it was a dessert), and it was the best decision I ever made. I expected this mound of “whatever it was” to be some sort of mysterious soggy bread. But what greeted my palate was a pudding so moist that creamy custard seeped out from the bread crumbs. It was honest to goodness love at first bite. For the rest of the night, I wouldn’t let the casserole dish out of my sight.
My love affair with bread pudding still is as strong as ever. Although I never will attempt to make it at home (I wasn’t exactly blessed with great Betty Crocker technique, mind you), it’s obligatory that I indulge whenever I’m in its presence.
And guess what? This week happened to be a week of indulgence, as work called me to the following OYK hot spots, where I reunited with my love, bread pudding. Its exquisite overtones are like music to my soul.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
My budding romance with lusciously rich bread pudding began at Ruth’s Chris Steak House at Waterfront Plaza. While the dense dessert may not be the quarterback of the football team, so to speak — that title is reserved for Iowa-fed, Iowa-grown USDA prime steaks — it boasts an alluring charm that I just can’t get enough of!
Priced at $9, Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce is a sight for sore eyes. A generous piece of French baguette bathes in a concoction of milk, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon spice and morsels of Granny Smith apples, which executive chef Eser Domingo lets soak for 30 minutes into each crevice of the bread. Once saturated, the bread is left to bake in the oven. In anticipation of what’s to come, I asked the chef to briefly describe what I was in for.
“It’s simple, old-fashioned bread pudding. It’s a wonderful balance of sweet and tart,” he says. But, of course, I had to be the judge. At first glance, the dessert was immaculate; a golden brown, toasty exterior paved the way for a fluffy, doughy interior that oozed with aromatic flair, which left my taste buds dancing on the tip of my tongue. What’s more is that a lavish whiskey cream sauce is liberally poured atop the bread pudding as the finishing touch.
“Jack Daniels, heavy cream, eggs and vanilla are essential to the whiskey sauce,” says Domingo, who adorns the sweet creation with mint leaf. “Our bread pudding is meant to share.”
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
500 Ala Moana Blvd. #6C
Plumeria Beach House
Welcome home again to Plumeria Beach House, an open-air, all-day dining restaurant located within The Kahala Hotel & Resort. With indoor dining and an outdoor terrace, guests are treated to a casually upscale setting with breathtaking coastal views.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Plumeria Beach House has expanded its a la carte menu to appease a variety of tastes. And my sweet tooth is not one to be quieted, so when Chocolate Hawaiian Sweet Bread Pudding ($12) was added to the menu about a month ago, you know I was first in line to take comfort in the glory of Peanut Butter Créme Anglaise and Macadamia Nut Ice Cream.
“While growing up on Maui, one of my aunties would make her Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding every Christmas. To this day, it’s one of my favorite desserts of all time. So I decided to make my version of it for our Kahala guests,” says executive pastry chef Jeremy Choo. “My aunty says she loves my chocolate bread pudding, but I still believe hers is the best!”
Choo relies on a Hawaiian sweet bread recipe, and makes the bread from scratch, which is then left to dry overnight. Thanks to the finest Valrhona chocolate, I was able to get my much-needed chocolate fix. The French chocolate, along with a heavy whipping cream, creates an indulgently smooth pudding, and crushed pieces of hand-roasted macadamia nuts present a satisfying crunch.
“Our Créme Anglaise is infused with Jiffy Peanut Butter, because it’s my personal favorite,” Chef explains. “We use the finest ingredients to make a bread pudding that brings sweet dreams to our guests. Plus, it’s just onolicious.”
So, swing by Plumeria Beach House during lunch and dinner. A rendezvous with island-inspired bread pudding awaits.
Plumeria Beach House
The Kahala Hotel & Resort
5000 Kahala Ave.
As its moniker suggests, Restaurant Epic, in downtown Honolulu, offers ingenious culinary works that are above par. The Nuuanu Avenue locale is intimate and contemporary, featuring a well-stocked full bar and a cultured selection of eats.
On my recent visit to Epic, the thought of Coconut Bread Pudding ($8) consumed me. I’m crazy about créme brulee, so instantly, I knew that pastry chef Wei’s take on bread pudding would be superb.
Of course, I was right. I have nothing but rave reviews for this handcrafted dessert, consisting of Hawaiian Sweet Bread married with a créme brulee-like pudding that spills over the bread, and then left in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Albeit a waiting game, good things come to those who wait, and obviously the end result was more than amazing. The consistency of the dessert was on point, and the natural flavor of vanilla beans was ascertainable. A cascade of coconut haupia Anglaise beautifully complements this restaurant favorite, as does a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with caramel drizzle and accents of strawberries and whipped cream. I think I’m in love.
1131 Nuuanu Ave.