Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugThroughout December, I have either been at work or in the kitchen cooking, leaving no time for photo processing or blogging. I’m back now and resolving (it’s that time of year, isn’t it?) to be a better blogger in 2013.

In lieu of the regular, piles-of-words blog post, here’s a mostly-photographic look at what kept us busy in the kitchen this Christmas.

It starts off with our traditional holiday baking marathon. This year I had to spread it out weirdly over several weekdays (instead of one intense 48-hour weekend) in order to accommodate my work schedule.

We always make Bourbon Bread Pudding (recipe at the end of the post), and pair it with some other type of goodie. This year, the “plus one” was granola, based on a recipe from a bed & breakfast we stayed at on our very first Mainland trip together, to the East Coast.

There are two “secret ingredients” in my Bourbon Bread Pudding. (Massive amounts of bourbon isn’t exactly a “secret.”) One is Hawaiian sweet bread.

Annual Holiday Bread Pudding Baking Marathon. First step: breaking down loaf upon loaf of bread. Sugar's version of breaking down a hog. Half Punaluu Bakery Sweet Bread, half French bread. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Crazy amounts of eggs and butter aren’t secret either. (Yes, those are big ol’ chunks of butter you see in that photo.)

You do not want to know how many eggs go into this pudding. (But that’s 20 eggshells there.) © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Yes, those are chunks of butter, among other things, in the custard mix. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Foiled up and ready for the oven. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

...and out of the oven. All sauced up with bourbon. © 2012 Sugar + Shake Christmas-y, right? Bourbon Bread Pudding. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

We made some tweaks to the original recipe from Snug Cottage Bed & Breakfast on Cape Cod to create Shake’s Cranberry Mac Nut Crunch Granola. I thought it would be awesome to make it a bourbon-glazed granola, but Shake thought that was weird.

This year, Shake wanted to make granola to go along with our Bread Pudding gfts. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Mostly, he thought it would be weird to have a bourbon flavor mixing in with your milk in the morning, but I pointed out that many people who receive the bread puddings eat them for breakfast. (After which I suggest brushing their teeth or refraining from speaking to anyone who might judge them for having booze breath at 9AM.) So, really, what’s wrong with bourbon granola for breakfast?

Shake’s Cranberry Mac Nut Crunch Granola. Next year, it, too, will be bourbon glazed. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

I seem to have convinced him of the greatness of boozed-up breakfast cereal, so next year we’ll try playing with the new recipe.

A gift from a chef friend: Pork belly left over from an event. Mmmmm... © 2012 Sugar + Shake

We had a little holiday dinner party with our friends the week before Christmas. We were fortunate enough to score some pork belly from Chef Sheldon Simeon (root for him on Top Chef!), left over from his Hapa Ramen dish at the tasting event, and we’ve been stashing it in the freezer for a special occasion. I now have a new dinner party strategy: Have a professional chef pre-cook all my meat for me and try not to eff it up.

I used Sheldon’s pork belly for a riff on his “Filipino Bacon & Eggs” dish crossed with Pork Watercress Salad — I fried up the pork belly and served it over watercress and arugula, with tomatoes, onions and garlic, dressed with blood orange olive oil and vanilla balsamic vinegar. I’d like to think I did Sheldon’s pork justice. At least I feel like I didn’t ruin it!

Making pork belly healthy. Chef-made (a gift!) pork belly over watercress and arugula, with tomatoes, garlic and onions. Dressed with blood orange olive oil and vanilla balsamic vinegar. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

I continued the blood orange olive oil theme through the meal by switching up my regular Bourbon Bread Pudding recipe. I swapped out a couple tablespoons of butter for some blood orange olive oil, added cranberries and macadamia nuts, and changed the bourbon sauce to a Cointreau sauce. Shake says he likes this version better. Served it to our guests with some of my Blood Orange Olive Oil Ice Cream.

Holiday dinner party dessert: A twist on the regular bread pudding recipe. Cranberry-Orange Sweet Bread Pudding. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Christmas morning breakfast: Spiced Sweet Bread French Toast, with a little touch of bourbon in the batter. At this time of year, we go through an unbelieveable amount of sweet bread and bourbon.

Christmas morning breakfast: Spiced Sweet Bread French Toast, with a touch of bourbon. (Can you sense a trend this holiday season?) © 2012 Sugar + Shake

For Christmas dinner, we went to my parents’ house. We brought along the rest of Sheldon’s pork belly. Mom fried it up (she did a way better job of it than I did) for pupus. Porky goodness.

Pork belly by Chef Sheldon Simeon, pan frying by Mom. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

When I posted this photo on Facebook, Sheldon’s wife, Janice, suggested it would be good with tomatoes and onions. Genius. We’re totally doing that next time.

For dinner my mom made a Chinese-style steamed fish with ginger, green onion, shiitake mushrooms and cilantro. Yummy. I gotta learn how to do this.

Christmas dinner at Sugar’s parents’ house. Steamed fish (weke ‘ula — red goatfish) with Chinese parsley, shiitake mushrooms and ginger. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

I was in charge of dessert, so I made a Red Wine Apple & Pear Cobbler.

Fruit lineup. Apples and pears. © 2012 Sugar + Shake Christmas dessert: Apple and Pear Red Wine Cobbler. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Phew. A very busy month. A lot of work, but rich with food and friends.

Our belated Christmas gift to you: my Bourbon Bread Pudding recipe.

Sugar’s Bourbon Bread Pudding

We make batches and batches of this for our annual holiday gifts. One batch of pudding will yield a heaping 9×9 pan or about 10 mini bento trays. I make it in double batches using a KitchenAid stand mixer. The pudding can be refrigerated and kept for about a week and a half. Shake insists that you must eat the pudding warm (reheat in a 350° oven), but I know that a lot of people we give this to eat it at room temp or cold out of the fridge.

There are two “secret ingredients” in this recipe, which can make it difficult to duplicate: eggnog and Hawaiian sweet bread. Obviously, eggnog’s pretty hard to find unless it’s Christmas, or you are willing to make it from scratch. If neither of those things are remotely realistic at the moment you want to make this recipe, just substitute heavy cream. Through work, we always get a couple loaves of Punalu‘u Bake Shop Hawaiian Sweet Bread right around the holidays. They’re extremely big (24 oz. each), and they’re also carried at Costco here. So that’s what I always use for this recipe. You can substitute any Hawaiian or Portuguese sweet bread, or just use all French bread.

  • ¼ loaf Punalu‘u Bake Shop Hawaiian Sweet Bread (or 6 oz. any Hawaiian or Portuguese sweet bread), cubed
  • ⅓ loaf French bread (or ½ baguette), cubed
For the Custard Mix
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 block (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup eggnog (or heavy cream)
  • Raisins
For the Bourbon Sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ teaspoon cornstarch
  • ⅓ cup bourbon (we like Maker’s Mark)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Mix the two types of bread cubes together and lay in a 9×9 glass pan (or fill mini bento trays). Scatter raisins to your taste.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk eggs. Mix in sugar. Add butter cubes and whisk on high. Add milk, eggnog and spices and mix thoroughly. Pour custard mix over bread. (If you want make this ahead of time, you can refrigerate the pudding at this point overnight.)

Cover the pan(s) with foil and poke holes all over to vent. Place on a baking sheet (to catch all the buttery runoff). Bake for 40 minutes; the bread should be beginning to puff up. Remove foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and crusty.

While the pudding is baking, make the Bourbon Sauce. Mix cinnamon and sugar together thoroughly in a deep saucepot. (Be sure the cinnamon is well mixed in with the sugar; otherwise, you’ll end up with lumps of cinnamon in your sauce.)

Add cream and butter and heat until nearly boiling. Remove from heat (but leave the burner on; you’ll be returning the pot to heat shortly). Mix bourbon with cornstarch and add to sauce. Return pot to burner and stir liquid just until it comes to a boil and begins to thicken. It may froth violently when you add the cornstarch mix and/or when it starts to boil. (This is why you’ll want to use a deep pot.)

If giving these away in mini portions, pour sauce generously over each pudding, allow to cool, then cover. Can be stored in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving.

If serving immediately, pour some sauce on each plate, add a portion of pudding and top with more sauce and fresh whipped cream or ice cream.

Blood Orange Olive Oil Variation:

Use all sweet bread, substitute cranberries for raisins, and add about a half cup of chopped macadamia nuts. In the custard mix, substitute two tablespoons of butter for two tablespoons of butter, and use cream instead of milk and eggnog; in the sauce, substitute Cointreau for bourbon.

Bourbon Bread Pudding. A Sugar + Shake tradition. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

We hope you had a wonderful, delicious Christmas. See you in the New Year!