Apricots and Cherries (Apricot-Cherry Bread Pudding)

I love this time of year. Actually, I love May through December because there are so many great things to eat. One of the best things about summer is the abundant local produce which is so readily available. I live in a place where stone fruit thrives. The cherries and apricots as well as peaches, plums, and nectarines are wonderful. They are my favorite fruits. Every place I have ever lived, has had at least one thing that grows particularly well there. Here, it is stone fruit. I love the flavor combination of cherries and apricots. Their contrasting colors are visually stunning on a plate, too.

Over the years I have developed what I refer to as my master bread pudding recipe. I may change the kind of bread I use and add fruit, but this recipe seems to work no matter what fruit or bread I use. Most bread-consuming cultures have a way to use their stale bread. I dislike bread puddings that have crust on them or are too bready. I prefer a soft white bread to an artisanal loaf. (I save stale artisanal bread for crostini and croutons.) I also like bread pudding to have a lot of custard. You can shake the recipe up if plain white bread is not for you. A neighbor mentioned that she made her bread pudding with leftover homemade cinnamon rolls. You could use challah or croissants as well.

The recipe calls for vanilla sugar. I often bake with vanilla sugar and keep several quart-size jars of homemade vanilla sugar in my pantry at all times. The recipe for vanilla sugar is simple. Place two split vanilla beans in a quart-size mason jar. Add sugar to fill the jar. Cover and shake to spread the vanilla seeds. Let sit two weeks before using. I buy vanilla beans from San Francisco Herb Company.

Apricot Cherry Bread Pudding
5 c. crustless cubed white bread
2 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream
4 large eggs
1-1/4 c. vanilla sugar
1/8 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. lemon or orange zest
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. almond extract
2 c. sliced fresh apricots
1 c. pitted and chopped Bing or other sweet cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13 pan. Place bread cubes in a large bowl and set aside. In another bowl prepare the custard by combining milk, heavy cream, eggs, sugar, salt, citrus zest, spices, and extracts. Mix until well combined. Pour custard over the bread cubes and let sit 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so the bread cubes absorb the custard. The bread should begin to fall apart. Stir in the apricots and cherries. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Turn half way during baking. The bread pudding is ready when it has risen to the top of the pan and has a spongy texture in the middle. Cool on rack. You can serve it warm with whipped cream, but I prefer it cold. Serves 10.

Apricot Cherry Bread Pudding

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