I love anything and everything that has to do with custard. And because I'm not a big chocolate fan, my weakness lies with custard desserts, and if they're combined with lemon—goodnight. This dessert is another inspired by my grandma, but with a twist. The lemon sauce is one she's been serving with her bread pudding forever, and it's divine. The sweet citrus is what takes the bread pudding to a whole other level. So, using her old fashioned lemon sauce, I'm upgrading Ina Garten's delicious croissant bread pudding. This is such a comforting dessert—perfect for fall and winter—and it's very, very easy to make. Also, I know what you're thinking. You're having flashbacks of the last time you attempted anything "custard." However, the custard part is simple here—no terrifying moments of wondering whether you scrambled the eggs with the hot milk. Leave it to the Barefoot Contessa to realize it comes out just as well if you don't do the whole scalding the milk/tempering the eggs part. So trust me, you can bake this, and you should.
Croissant Bread Pudding
Adjusted from Ina Garten for 7 x 11 inch baking dish
Yields 8 servings
4 large croissants or 8 mini croissants (stale is preferred), sliced horizontally
3 whole extra large eggs
5 extra large egg yolks only
3¾ cups half and half
1⅛ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Baking dish - 7 x 11 in.
1 cup boiling water for water bath
Old fashioned lemon sauce (recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place croissants in dish in even layer, with top half of each croissant set over the bottom half.
Then prepare custard mixture. Beat eggs and egg yolks in a medium sized bowl. Add half and half, sugar, and vanilla, and whisk together until combined. Pour custard mixture over croissants until it reaches just below the rim of the baking dish. Soak croissants for about 10 minutes, pressing croissants down every now and then to be sure the tops are absorbing the liquid, as well.
Meanwhile, boil water for a water bath (you’ll need at least 2 cups). Place baking dish in a larger roasting pan. Pour boiling water into larger pan until it goes at least 1 inch up the sides of the pudding dish. Cover larger pan with foil, tenting it so it doesn’t touch the croissants. Use a knife to cut a few slits in the foil to allow steam to escape (just poke it quickly so you don’t un-tent the foil by pressing down too hard).
Carefully place in oven on the middle rack. Bake for 30 minutes with foil on, and then remove foil and bake for about 35-40 minutes more, until custard is set.
Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before cutting into it—it can still be served warm at this point though—just needs a little time to set.
Meanwhile, make the lemon sauce.
Old Fashioned Lemon Sauce
Yields about 1 cup
½ cup sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
Couple dashes nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 cup boiling water
2 T unsalted butter, cold
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
Combine dry ingredients in a small sauce pan and whisk together. Pour in boiling water and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat, and boil, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and add in butter, stirring to incorporate until fully melted. Then add in lemon juice.
Pour over individual slices of bread pudding—about 2 T per slice, or more if desired. If made ahead, this can be heated again in the microwave or on the stovetop before serving.