So how many other ingredients could I cram into that title? Could it be too many, you ask? No, I answer, definitively.
Pretzel bread is everywhere now and I am not complaining. Big fan. Always have been. Take me to a baseball game – nachos you say? hot dog? No, gimme that big-assed pretzel and a bunch of mustard packets and I am set. So I found myself with a freezer full of these pretzel buns and some bananas and there you have it.
This bread pudding has to be part of your holiday celebration. Because oh my god it’s so freakin’ easy. A number of years ago, I had a friend who told me she was “working on bread puddings” – as in learning how to make them. What? You don’t have to learn how to make a bread pudding. You just dump everything in the pan and throw it in the oven and out comes gooey, pretzel-y love.
So what’s the best thing about pretzels? That chewy dough contrasted with the crunchy salt. So how do you incorporate that experience into the bread pudding? You don’t want to use salted buns because that would all just melt into the pudding and muck it up. The answer? Salted caramel sauce.
A lot of caramel sauce recipes will ask you to dissolve the sugar in water and as the water evaporates the sugar will caramelize. I can’t make it like this. I always burn it. One Christmas I think I made it three times before it turned out and it was still kinda burnt. This sauce recipe is from James Peterson and just asks you to put the sugar right in the pan and turn on the heat. Keep stirring until it caramelizes and then add the cream. Simple. But try to let the cream come closer to room temperature, if it’s really cold it will just cause the caramelized sugar to harden and you’ll spend 10 minutes stirring to try to get it to melt back down and combine. (This sauce will also harden if you put it on ice cream. Be warned.) Use a sea salt or other milder, artisan salt if you can, Kosher salt has a sharper, more acidic flavor that doesn’t blend as well with the caramel. And if you want to keep it really easy, no one would fault you if you just bought the stuff in the jar.
Enjoy this as a fantastically easy holiday dessert, and again in your jammies the next morning.
Caramel Pretzel Banana Bread Pudding
16 oz pretzel bread
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups half and half
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp dark rum – I like Kraken, but you can use your favorite brand
3 ripe bananas
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Break up the pretzel bread into 1-inch pieces and let them sit out for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight. This will allow it to go a bit stale and really soak up the liquid.
Mash your bananas until they are pretty gooey and liquid-y. I don’t really know the culinary term for this, you just don’t want big chunks.
Beat the eggs, and combine with brown sugar and salt. Whisk together with milk, half and half and bananas.
Add pretzel bread to liquid mixture and let soak for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight in the refrigerator. This is another reason it’s so easy. You can do all of this the night before and leave it in the fridge, then pop this in the oven while you’re eating dinner and – voila! Hot dessert with no effort!
Put the mixture in a buttered 9″ x 13″ pan and place in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, until the top is golden brown and liquid is absorbed.
Top with warm salted caramel sauce and enjoy!
Salted Caramel Sauce
Adapted slightly from James Peterson’s Baking
2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream – not super cold
1/4 tsp sea salt (you may want more but start here)
Put the sugar into a heavy-bottomed and fairly high-sided sauce pan over medium-high to high heat. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the sugar begins to melt and turn reddish-brown. Once the sugar is smooth and caramelized, add heavy cream – be very careful as the super-hot caramel will cause spattering. (Thus the room temperature cream and deep pan.) Continue to stir until cream and caramel are blended.
Add the 1/4 teaspoon of salt and serve.
Store in the refrigerator.