Apples & Honey Bread Pudding

We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to have apples and honey around Rosh Hashanah, aren’t we? Ok, maybe we’re not alwaysss looking for that, but I do think it’s nice to mix things up. And when I knew I was going to have a lot of challah leftover (our two-person household won’t go through a whole loaf in time), I decided to make a halved version of this bread pudding. I was a tad intimidated because bread pudding sounds complicated and the recipe looked like it included some extra cooking prep, but it turned out to be pretty simple – like a french toast casserole.

[I halved the recipe, but this is for a full one.] Heat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish. Cut a 1 lb challah into large cubes and toast, tossing twice, for about 12 minutes (it will have a light golden brown crust). While the bread toasts, heat 6 tbsp honey in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high and cook until it caramelizes, about 5 minutes — it’ll give off a lovely nutty aroma. Remove from heat and stir in 4 tbsp butter until it melts, then stir in 8 c. of peeled and diced apples (about 6 apples), vanilla seeds and pod (I just used some vanilla extract), and a pinch of salt. Return to medium-high heat, cover and cook, stirring frequently, until apples are soft and liquid has mostly evaporated, about 10 minutes. Transfer apples and any liquid to a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk together 2 c. half-and-half or heavy cream, 1 1/2 c. milk, 5 eggs and 3 egg yolks, 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Gently toss in bread and half the cooked apples (save the other half for later). Pour into the baking dish, cover with tin foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and spoon the remaining apples on top. Top with pecans (recipe called for almonds but I went rogue) and return to the oven to bake, uncovered, for another 20-25 minutes. Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving warm.

This is like french toast and bread pudding and all the good things rolled into one. It’s great as a Rosh Hashanah dessert but because there’s not caramel to take it to the next sweetness level, it works just as beautifully as a special breakfast/brunch dish. I would love to have this waiting for me the morning after Rosh Hashanah.