This simple bread pudding recipe is soft on the inside, toasty on the outside, sweetened and baked with a traditional custard, pecans, and is topped with a vanilla bourbon sauce. A boozy breakfast sure to delight.
Is there anything better than a carb-loaded breakfast with booze?! This takes a traditional bread pudding recipe and slightly kicks it up a notch. The bread gets soaked in a brown sugar and warm spiced custard, baked, and drizzled with a vanilla bourbon sauce (creme anglaise) to finish.
Each bite is totally soft and melt in your mouth, but also has some extra texture from the toasted tops and chopped pecan pieces.
It’s the perfect breakfast to feed a crowd and can be assembled the night before and baked off hot and fresh in the morning. A perfect addition to a holiday breakfast, or for any occasion, really.
Notes on Ingredients and Tools
- Bread loaf. French or Italian loaves will work for this recipe. You could also use challah or brioche. One large loaf, about 1 pound, should be enough, but it just needs to be enough to fill a 13×9 pan. I usually always pick up two loaves just in case.
- Eggs. Whole large eggs for the custard and bread pudding, yolks for the bourbon sauce.
- Dairy. Heavy whipping cream and whole milk – needed for both the bread pudding custard and the bourbon cream sauce.
- Ground spices. Cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Pecans. Toasted and roughly chopped.
- Bourbon. Use your favorite, as it really comes through in the sauce!
- Vanilla. You definitely need it for this recipe. I love vanilla bean paste but you can also use extract.
You will need a digital kitchen thermometer for this recipe. It’s crucial to get the bourbon sauce to the correct temperature so it slightly thickens and cooks, but doesn’t curdle or scramble.
Assemble the night before and bake the next morning! See “making ahead and reheating” section for the tip.
How to Make the Bread Pudding
STEP 1: Begin by preheating the oven to 350℉/177℃ and grab two large baking pans.
Using a serrated knife, split the loaf of bread in half, then stand it up on its cut half and remove all crusts from the bread. Cut or tear the bread into one inch cubes and split evenly between the baking sheets.
Bake the bread for 15 minutes, tossing the bread at half, until dried out and just barely toasted.
While the bread is baking, chop and lightly toast the pecans in a frying pan, then transfer to a plate to cool.
STEP 2: Combine the milk and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium low heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. This step is necessary so the sugar doesn’t sink or clump up in pockets of the bread pudding.
In another bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, eggs, spices, and vanilla. Once the sugar has dissolved in the milk, stream the milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. If you don’t whisk while doing this, you run the risk of scrambling the eggs.
STEP 3: In the largest bowl you have, add the toasted bread and drizzle over half of the custard. Toss it until the bread completely absorbs the custard (you may need to do this in batches). Then, add half of the bread to a greased 13×9 pan and sprinkle with half of the pecans.
Add the remaining bread, drizzle over the rest of the custard (be sure to scrape out the bottom to get all of the spices) and sprinkle on the remaining pecans. Cover with plastic wrap and press down with your hands all over to help the bread sink and absorb the liquid.
Allow it to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes minimum. I typically like do to around 3 hours.
The Best Bourbon Sauce
While the bread pudding is working its magic, make the vanilla bourbon cream sauce (creme anglaise). It’s a deliciously rich, thin custard and the bourbon really makes it! I suggest starting with one shot, taste the sauce, then add more if you’d like.
STEP 4: Set up a double boiler by placing an inch of water in a saucepan and place a glass bowl on top. Be sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. It should sit up on the rim of the saucepan.
In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then add the sugars and whisk rapidly until pale and slightly fluffier.
Set up a third large bowl with cold water and ice cubes, this needs to be bigger than the double boiler bowl.
STEP 5: Add the milk and cream to the bowl on the double boiler and turn onto medium high heat. Heat the milk until it reaches 180℉/82℃ on a digital thermometer, stirring occasionally.
Once the milk reaches temperature, slowly stream it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until combined. Then, pour the mixture back into the double boiler bowl and heat on the double boiler until it reaches 185℉/87℃. Whisk constantly.
Pro Tip: Be patient, this process can take a bit of time to get to temperature. It’s important to go relatively slowly as to not scramble the eggs.
Add the bowl into the ice water (make sure the weight doesn’t push the water out), then whisk in the vanilla and bourbon. Stir the mixture occasionally until it reaches room temperature.
Serve scoops or slices of the bread pudding onto plates or bowls, then drizzle on the bourbon creme anglaise. It’s best to pour on each serving individually so you can control the amount.
You can make both the bread pudding and the bourbon sauce the night before and then bake it off in the morning. Make the bread pudding the whole way up through the soaking period. Wrap the casserole dish in both plastic wrap and foil and refrigerate overnight to soak.
Remove the bread pudding from the fridge, remove the plastic wrap, then place the foil back on. Bake at 350℉/177℃ for around one hour (and potentially longer) since it’s being baked from cold. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of baking. The center of the bread pudding should be hot when done.
Alternatively, you can fully bake the bread pudding, store it in the fridge, then reheat in the oven (covered with foil) until warmed through.
Storing, Reheating, and Freezing
Store the baked bread pudding in the fridge, covered, for 3 days. To reheat, lightly cover with foil at 350℉/177℃ for about 20-30 minutes or until the center is warmed through.
To freeze, bake the bread pudding and allow it to cool fully. Wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze for two months. Thaw in the fridge for 24 hours, then bake at 350℉/177℃ for about 20-30 minutes or until the center is warmed through.
The creme anglaise can be made up to three days in advance and stored in a sealed container in the fridge. To reheat, add the sauce to the bowl of a double boiler and whisk occasionally until lightly warmed.
FAQs & Tips
Yes. The bread needs to be baked to remove moisture. This allows the bread to best soak up the custard while still maintaining its structure. Fresh, soft bread will turn to mush!
Sure! You can add 1/2 cup raisins scattered throughout the bread pudding along with the pecans. If you want to make the dish extra boozy, soak the raisins in bourbon for 1 hour before assembling.
Yes. The bourbon can be removed without any other changes to the recipe.
More Breakfast Recipes
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Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
- 13 x 9-inch casserole dish
- Glass mixing bowl
- Large cookie sheets
Pecan Bread Pudding
- 1 loaf Italian or French bread crust removed & cubed/torn into 1-inches* (~1lb)
- 2 cups whole milk 480ml
- 1 cup light brown sugar 200g
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream 480ml
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract
- 1 cup chopped pecans 115g
Bourbon Creme Anglaise
- 4 large egg yolks
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar 67g
- 1½ cups whole milk 360ml
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream 120ml
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 1 shot bourbon
- Preheat the oven to 350℉/177℃ and grab two large cookie sheets.
- Slice the crust off of the bread, then cut or tear into 1-inch cubes – you will need about 8 cups worth. Spread evenly between the two cookies sheets in one layer.
- Bake for 15 minutes, turning over the bread at half, until lightly toasted and dried out.
- While the bread is baking, toast the pecans in a frying pan and transfer to a plate to cool.
- To prepare the custard, add the milk and sugar to a saucepan over medium low heat and whisk together until the sugar is dissolved, then remove from the heat.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, vanilla, and spices, then stream in the warm milk while whisking continuously.
- In another large bowl, add the toasted bread, drizzle with half of the custard, and toss to coat and absorb. This may need to be done in batches.
- Grease a 13×9 inch casserole dish and transfer half of the bread to the dish, sprinkle over half of the wanuts.
- Add the rest of the bread, remaining pecans, and drizzle over the remaining custard.
- Cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap and gently push down all over. Allow it to stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes for the bread to absorb the custard. Remove the plastic wrap and re-cover with a piece of foil.
- Preheat the oven to 350℉/177℃ and bake with the foil on for 30 minutes, then remove and bake uncovered for 20-30 more minutes until slightly puffy and golden and completely hot the whole way through.
Bourbon Creme Anglaise
- Set up a double boiler by placing an inch of water in a saucepan and place a glass bowl on top. Be sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. It should sit on the rim of the saucepan.
- Set up another large bowl with cold water and ice cubes, this needs to be bigger than the double boiler bowl.
- In third bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then add the sugars and whisk rapidly until pale and slightly fluffier.
- Add the milk and cream to the bowl and turn onto medium high heat. Heat the milk until it reaches 180℉/82℃ on a digital thermometer.
- Once the milk reaches temperature, slowly stream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until combined. Then, pour the mixture back into the double boiler bowl and heat on the double boiler until it reaches 185℉/87℃. Whisk constantly.
- Add the bowl into the ice water, then whisk in the vanilla and bourbon. Stir the mixture occasionally until room temperature.
- Serve scoops or slices of the bread pudding onto plates or bowls, then drizzle on the bourbon creme anglaise.