Apple Pecan Bread Pudding

Apple Pecan Bread Pudding

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (half a stick)
2 cups diced apples, cut into ¾ to 1-inch cubes (Honeycrisp, Granny Smith or Pink Lady are best)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 eggs
1 ½ cups cream
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (optional)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
½ pound day-old bread, cubed (about 5 to 6 cups)
½ cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat; add the apples, cinnamon and nutmeg cook over medium-low heat until apples are slightly soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, use a whisk to combine the eggs and cream together. Add the brown sugar, maple syrup and vanilla and whisk until incorporated. With a wooden spoon or spatula, gently stir in the chilled apple mixture, then fold in the bread cubes and toasted pecans until evenly distributed.

Transfer mixture to a 9 x 13 baking dish, loaf pan or muffin tin and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. If using a loaf pan, fill pan to within an inch of the top; for muffins, fill to the top of each mold.

Create a water bath to ensure even baking: Place the pan with the bread pudding in the center of a larger pan, and fill with warm water to half-way up the side of the smaller pan.

Bake at 300 degrees for about an hour, until the top is a rich, golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Oven temperatures vary, so check for doneness after 45 minutes. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

To store: Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days for best results.

To freeze: Bake first, cool, wrap in plastic and transfer to an airtight freezer bag or container and freeze for up to 2 months. For easy access, cut into individual portions before freezing, wrap each portion in plastic and place them in a freezer bag or container.