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From My Kitchen- Radhika’s Top Chef Peach Lavender Brioche Pudding

Posted in From My Kitchen- Radhika's Top Chef Peach Lavender Brioche Pudding on December 24, 2009 by jaydel818

My contribution to our family’s Christmas Day feast is a dessert from one of my favorite Top Chef underdogs, Radhika Desai.  A friend gave me the second Top Chef cookbook a holiday gift (thanks, Jesse!:)), and this recipe is the first I’m trying.

Since the recipe is not posted on Bravo’s website and since the book is, I’m sure, fully protected by copyright law, I’m not going to risk prosecution by replicating the recipe in its full form here.  I will, rather diplomatically, assure you that the $29.95 is well worth it, so go buy the book.  That said, I’ll give you a brief rundown of what I did to create this heavenly confection.

First, I started with a good challah bread and cubed it.  My local market was out of brioche, and this particular challah was deliciously egg-y and sweet.  Several pieces did not make it into the pan, but that’s par for the course when you have delicious bread in front of you.

Then I whisked eggs, heavy cream, cinnamon, and ground ginger.  See? That’s me whisking.  I can whisk and snap photos.  I’m multi-talented like that.  I was a little concerned that, with no added sugar, the bread pudding wouldn’t be sweet.  I trusted the recipe, though, and… wouldn’t ya know it? Radhika was right.  That’s why she was on Top Chef, and I’m just the schmo following her recipe.

Then, I poured the spiced cream onto the bread cubes and let them soak.  The creamy goodness tends to gather at the bottom (see the top left corner of the photo below), so be sure to spoon the mixture around and cover the bread cubes evenly.

Next, I prepared a water bath for gentler, more even baking of the bread pudding.  This method is usually used for delicate desserts like cheesecakes, custards, souffles, or egg-based items that can curdle if overcooked.  I used a sheet cake pan I had, placed my baking dish in it, and then filled it halfway with water to insulate the bread pudding baking dish.  Ideally, your water bath pan should have more room around the edges, but I’m working with what I’ve got…

I baked at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.  (Radhika’s recipe doesn’t give a temperature, so I feel okay sharing that information.  Come to think of it- I didn’t even consider the temperature as I was baking.  I went to 350 on auto-pilot.)

Then I peeled and grated fresh ginger root, which made my fingers smell delicious.

I browned butter, got distracted, left the stove top, and burned it.  DOH! So I cleaned out the pan and browned butter again, this time watching it more carefully and adding fresh lavender and my grated ginger.

At about this time, the bread cubes were finished baking.  The top was brown, and I pulled the dishes out of the oven… carefully.  Nobody likes a burned hand.  Then I turned back to the butter-lavender-ginger and added sliced peaches.  Since peaches are woefully out of season, I used jarred peaches.  I subscribe to the belief that fresh anything is better than processed anything.  However, if one must use processed food, fruit that comes out of glass tastes MUCH better than fruit that comes out of a can. Then I decided to change the consistency of the peaches by putting them through a ricer… with partial success.  I thought that mushy peaches would seep deeper into the bread pudding overnight and integrate into the flavor of the bread.  The result was partly mushed, partly chunked peaches as many of the peaches resisted squooshing.

The recipe says that you can use rosemary instead of lavender, and I almost did.  Rosemary is easy to get, fresh, and much cheaper than lavender.  Let me pause a minute to share this with you: I’m sure the rosemary would’ve be fragrant and wonderful, but I’m glad I stuck with the lavender because my house smelled like utter deliciousness. (For those of you who might be wondering, utter deliciousness is the diametrical opposite of what the jacuzzi on the show Jersey Shore must smell like.)  If there is a Heaven, I can almost guarantee that it smells like a mixture of peaches, lavender, cinnamon, and ginger.  I wish there was some way that I could pack it into a “smell” file and insert it into this post like a .WAV or a YouTube video.  There are few things as relaxing and comforting on this earth.  Yes, it’s a little perfume-y, but it’s as close as you get on earth to knowing what it’s like to sit on a cloud, wear a halo, and play a harp.  It smells more like heaven than a newborn baby.  Honestly.

It smelled so good that our dog, Charley, wouldn’t leave the kitchen.  He just nosed around the counter-tops, sniffing and looking sadly at me.  Like this:

I added honey to the butter-lavender-ginger peaches and mushed them in the pan with a fork.  I was determined to squoosh them down a little.  Then I did something which I may or may not regret.  I splashed the rest of the peach syrup onto the bread pudding to give it that extra sweetness and peach flavor.  Time will tell whether my decision was a good one.

Tomorrow, when I get to my parents’ house, I’ll mix some of the grated ginger I reserved with sugar to candy it.  (This is a bit of a departure from Radhika’s recipe.)  Then I’ll let the vanilla frozen yogurt I bought soften, mix the sugar-ginger and some crushed, reserve lavender into it.  I’ll re-heat the bread pudding to crisp the top and edges and serve it topped with the frozen yogurt, fresh blueberries, and chopped cashews:

More pictures to follow tomorrow!

Wishing you and your family very happy holidays and a wonderful new year!