Mexican Bread Pudding
In Mexico, this popular Lenten dessert is typically made with the versatile bolillos, or small bread rolls. Here, the bread is baked instead of sautéed before it is combined with the other ingredients. This bread pudding is traditionally served as a dessert, but the unusual addition of savory garnishes roasted peanuts and aged cheese also makes it a wonderful breakfast or brunch dish.
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup corn oil
16 3x2x1/2-inch slices French bread from about three 6- to 7-inch-long French rolls
2 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
3 canela or cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 teaspoons aniseed
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup blanched slivered almonds
1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
4 ounces queso manchego*, thinly sliced, room temperature
Crema mexicana** or sour cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in corn oil. Brush large rimmed baking sheet with some of butter mixture. Arrange bread slices on sheet. Brush bread generously with remaining butter mixture. Bake bread slices 10 minutes; turn slices over and bake until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes longer. Cool. Arrange bread in 15x10x2-inch glass baking dish. Maintain oven temperature.
Bring brown sugar, 1 1/2 cups water, canela sticks, aniseed, and 6 tablespoons butter to boil in medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until syrup is reduced to 2 cups, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. (Bread and syrup can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover bread and store at room temperature. Cover and chill syrup. Rewarm syrup before using.)
Gradually pour warm syrup over bread slices, allowing some of syrup to be absorbed before adding more. Sprinkle raisins, almonds, and peanuts over. Cover dish with foil and bake until bread is slightly softened and syrup is bubbling, about 25 minutes. Place 2 bread slices on each plate; spoon some of syrup, raisins, and nuts over. Top each with queso manchego. Serve with crema mexicana, if desired.
*Light yellow, semi-soft mild cheese that is different from the aged Spanish cheese of the same name. Substitute mild cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Muenster.
**Cultured Mexican cream with a slightly nutty flavor and consistency of thin sour cream.
Makes 8 servings.
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