Strawberry and Rhubarb Milk Bread Pudding

Ripe Strawberries, just picked rhubarb, scrumptious bread, sugar, cream, eggs
Voila! You have a seasonal bread pudding!


When strawberries and rhubarb are in their brief season, you have to make the most of them while you can.  And when your local farmers' market has the best selection of strawberries and rhubarb as well as a fantastic artisanal baker, well, then you really have to make this dessert for whatever occasion you want.  Between the fruit at Fruitwood Farms and the Milk Bread from Lost Bread Bakers, I made a dessert so decadent that I was glad I had a party to take it to so I could share this treat with many people.

Soffia - from Lost Bread Bakers
Fruitwood Farms had deep ruby red strawberries so sweet they barely needed sugar, along with just picked Rhubarb that I cooked down into a unctuous compote.  As soon as I saw the fruits I knew I was going to make something wonderful.
A few stands away I found my medium to tie my dessert idea together - a loaf of Milk Bread from Lost Bread Bakery.  Milk bread is a cross between a hearty white sandwich loaf and a brioche.  Enriched with milk and cream and sugar, this organic loaf makes great toast for sandwiches as well as a great base for my bread pudding.


The ingredients are few and simple, sugar, perfectly ripe strawberries; rhubarb; lemon juice and zest; a pinch of salt; vanilla; a loaf of hearty bread; cream, butter, and eggs.  I suggest you scout out your farmers' market this weekend to snag the best of the season's strawberries and rhubarb.  If you are as lucky as I am to have a good bakery nearby, grab a loaf of enriched bread such as brioche, challah, or if you're truly lucky, the milk bread like I found.  You'll need a deep baking loaf pan and a few mixing bowls, along with a small sauce pot.



Strawberry and Rhubarb Milk Bread Pudding Ingredients:
  • 1 Bunch of Fresh Rhubarb - washed, greens removed and stems cut into 1/4 inch sized pieces (yield 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups rhubarb) - or use frozen if fresh isn't available. 
  • Quart of Ripe Strawberries - washed, greens removed and berries cut into half
  • 1 Cup and 1 Tablespoon Sugar - (divided into 1/2 cup, 2-1/4 cups and 1 Tablespoon)
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon (about 1/2 tablespoon zest and 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice)
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Loaf of Enriched Bread - Cut into Cubes, to yield about 4-5 cups of cut bread cubes
  • 1 Pint Light Cream
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter a 9-inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter; set aside.
  2. Clean the rhubarb by removing the green leaves and discarding them (do not use, do not eat the leaves, they are toxic!)  Cut the rhubarb stems into 1/4 inch pieces and add to a small sauce pan along with 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat down to simmer the rhubarb until it cooks down and becomes soft and mushy - about 10 minutes.  Once the rhubarb is cooked down, remove from heat.
  3. While the rhubarb is cooking, clean and prepare the strawberries. Once the rhubarb is done cooking, add the cut strawberries to the rhubarb mixture along with 1/4 cup of sugar.  Stir gently to combine and set the sauce pan aside.  Reserve 1/2 to 1 cup of the strawberry rhubarb mixture and set it aside to make a sauce.  
  4. Cut the milk bread loaf into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes and add to a large mixing bowl.  Add in all but 1/2 to 1 cup of the strawberry rhubarb mixture to the bread cubes and gently fold into the bread.
  5. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the 1 pint of light cream, three whole eggs, the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the eggs are incorporated into the cream.  The mixture should be light yellow and frothy. Pour the cream mixture over the bread and strawberry mixture and fold the mixture to incorporate thoroughly.  
  6. Put the bread mixture into your buttered baking loaf pan and place the loaf pan onto a sheet tray and place into the preheated oven.  Dot the top of the pudding with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake an additional 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cook for at least 1/2 hour before serving.
  8. To make a compote or sauce for the bread pudding, puree the reserved strawberry and rhubarb mixture in blender or food processor until smooth.  Refrigerate the sauce until ready to use.  Sauce, also known as a coulis or compote, can be drizzled over the bread pudding or used as a side sauce.
  9. Pudding will keep up to 5 days refrigerated.  Serves 8-10.

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