Caramel-Pecan Bread Pudding


1/2 lb. French, Italian, egg or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 Tbs. butter or margarine, melted
1 quart (4 cups) half and half or milk
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
6 eggs
1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup caramel flavor sundae topping
Whipped cream or topping (optional)


Spray 2-quart Square casserole with nonstick cooking spray. Place bread cubes in casserole; sprinkle in pecans, then pour butter over all. Toss lightly. Preheat oven to 425 F. Whisk together half and half, eggs, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour evenly over bread cubes and let stand 5 minutes. Microwave on Medium (50% power) 10-12 minutes, until mixture is just beginning to set. Place in preheated oven 12-15 minutes until pudding is puffed and golden brown. Remove from oven to wire rack; let stand 15 minutes to cool slightly. Soften caramel topping in microwave to a pourable consistency; drizzle over warm bread pudding. To serve, cut into squares or spoon into dessert dishes. Serve, if desired, with whipped cream.

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