I am bread heavy this week. I wasn't expecting the grocery to have all the bread on my order so to cover my bases I ordered it all: hamburger buns, hot dog buns, bread, tortillas, English muffins, Hawaiian rolls, etc. Since I wasn't expecting them to have any of that or all of it, I also ordered bread from my farmer's market pick up: dinner rolls, tiger rolls, asiago cheese bagels, and a really nice loaf of whole wheat with flax seeds. On what feels like an online ordering spree, I then decided to order takeout for the first time during quarantine and ordered a family meal from the local chicken salad restaurant, which came with 6 croissants.
ALL of it came in. There were no shortages. I found myself staring at an entire kitchen counter full of bread options and nearly crying. I DO NOT ever waste food and I felt terrible because I wasn't trying to be greedy. We immediately started eating every manner of bready things, I froze some bread, and I gave some bready goods to my in-laws.
I was surprised when no one went after the croissants. I have never heard of leftover croissants! I've also never forgotten the first time I saw Nigella Lawson's Caramel Croissant Pudding while thumbing through my copy of Nigella Express. I wanted to make it right then and there but shied away from it both because I never have leftover croissants and more importantly, I have never been successful with caramel.
In quarantine, with nothing but time on my hands, I decided that I wasn't going to stop until I had a successful caramel. Things were not smooth sailing, as sugar and water are known to be finicky, but I got a successful caramel on the first go-around. I was really proud of myself when I poured that luscious caramel over the torn-up croissants. I could tell this was going to be a masterpiece!
Now, a third reason for not making this recipe is that this is absolutely terrible for you: two croissants, one cup of sugar, and heavy cream. Plus, I just knew that I would have to top it all off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But, we're in quarantine and I successfully made caramel for the first time, plus it's my wedding anniversary, and even though I'm not fond of this entitled way of thinking, I felt as though I earned it!
Folks, I can assure you that this dessert is worth it! Holy cow is this good. The interior of the pudding is sweet, smooth, and buttery while the top of the pudding gets a beautiful flakiness to it that crackles when you take a bite. The caramel is balanced perfectly, not too sweet. This pudding, with a scoop of vanilla, is heaven on earth.
One of the reviewers on the Food Network said that she makes several versions of this dessert with different add-ins and serves it at her bed and breakfast where it is a smashing success! After tasting this I can tell you, it is simply that good. This is my new go-to dessert!
Caramel Croissant Pudding
Adapted from Nigella Express
Serves 2 greedy people
2 stale croissants
1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 whole milk
2 tablespoons bourbon*
2 eggs, beaten
Optional: Read the reviews on the Food Network website. Reviewers added chocolate chips, fruit, etc. I added a sprinkle of sea salt on the top prior to baking because I love the way caramel and sea salt go together. It was a lovely addition and I would do it again!
*Note: I used vanilla instead of bourbon. I think you can use any type of flavorings, such as rum, bourbon, vanilla, etc.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Tear the croissants into pieces and put in a small gratin dish; it needs to have the capacity for 2 cups.
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, and swirl around to help dissolve the sugar before putting the saucepan on the burner over medium to high heat. Caramelize the sugar and water mixture by letting it bubble away until it all turns a deep amber color; this will take 3-5 minutes (mine took well over 10 minutes).
Turn heat down to low and add the cream - ignoring all spluttering - and whisking, the milk, and the bourbon.* Any solid toffee that forms in the pan will dissolve easily if you keep whisking over low heat. Take off heat and, still whisking, add the beaten eggs (tempering the eggs in a steady slow stream). Pour the caramel bourbon* custard over the croissants and leave to steep for 10 minutes if the croissants are very stale.
Place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes and prepare to swoon.