Bread pudding with an upgrade

Shopping at a World Market yesterday I found some Italian cookies I used to love as a child : Savoiardi. I believe they call this type of cookie "lady fingers" here in United States. This particular ones are very dry, crisp, porous and crumbly, with a sugary sprinkle on top. They are used usually for Tiramisu, but work great for any cake. I bought them thinking to make the crust for my next cheesecake, as we are not very crazy for the graham cracker crust, and wanted to find a replacement. As a kid I used to love eating Savoiardi with my hot chocolate, dipping them in. 
savoiardi custard
Thinking about what to fix for breakfast next day, bread pudding came to mind, and this spongy cookies would be perfect to take this yummy treat up a notch. Said and done. I think bread pudding is a wonderful breakfast, but you have to have the time. If you are in a hurry this won't be a good breakfast idea. You could try it as a dinner desert though!

Here is how to make this:

Ingredients (for 2 rather large portions, or 4 smaller):
12 Savoiardi cookies (you can use any other lady finger cookies, or even left over Panettone, or why not make the classic recipe with stale bread) 
4 eggs
1/4 cup sugar (you can put less if you don't want them too sweet, as the cookies are also sweet and have sugar sprinkles on top as well)
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, or even better, half vanilla bean seeds
1 pinch of grated nutmeg

Break the cookies in half, and arrange them in layers in the ramekins. Set aside.


In a bowl, or in a blender as I did, mix together sugar and eggs, then add all the rest of the ingredients and mix well, not too long though.

Pour this mixture over the cookies in the ramekins, to fill them up, but not all the way to the top, as they will rise at least one inch while baking. Gently press the cookies down to make sure they are sunk in the custard. Let them soak in for at least 10-15 minutes.

savoiardi custard
I prepared this the night before, so I placed the ramekins in the fridge until the next morning. But you can bake them right away as well. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 C), placing them in a deep pan filled with hot water halfway up the ramekins, for 50 minutes to one hour, until they get golden brown and fluffy and the custard sets. Just keep an eye on them after 45 minutes pass, not to get them burned, as every oven is different.

If your morning routine takes you about one hour, this is a great breakfast for you. What I do is, wake up, go straight to the kitchen, take the ramekins out of the fridge, place them in a deep pan, fill the pan halfway up with water, preferably hot, but cold should work too... after all, you just woke up, you need things simple and easy. Place the pan in the oven, turn the oven on to 350 degrees, and set the timer for one hour. Never place the cold out of the fridge ramekins in a preheated oven though, you risk them cracking. But if you place them in the cold oven and turn it on afterwards, it is fine. It will take them a little longer in the oven to be done if you are baking them straight out the fridge, then it would if you bake them right away.
Go get your shower, put on make up, get dressed... it takes me about one hour... long, I know... Between your mascara and blush, go check on the pudding. 
And when you are ready, your kitchen will be filled with an amazing smell, and you have a yummy hot breakfast waiting for you. 
savoiardi custard
 Careful though, as it will be very hot, let them cool a little before digging in. 

I believe this would be great with a nice sauce on top (extra calories always somehow make things tastier :), but I skipped the sauce this time), such as this one from Paula Deen:

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick) melted
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons brandy, or liqueur, or 1/2 teaspoon rum essence

Mix everything but the brandy together in a sauce pan over medium heat, until the sugar dissolves, and you get a creamy consistency. Add the brandy, mix well, and pour over pudding. 

You can also top the warm pudding with ice cream, or whipped cream, and even fresh berries. 


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