This is one of those showstopper desserts. There is a lot of work that goes into it, namely, making your own bread. But one of the things I love about cooking is the process: from conceptualizing to planning, shopping and chopping, kneading and measuring, and, finally, eating. Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, it all does not have to suck. In fact, sometimes it can equal the original idea with innovative techniques and ingredients. Granulated tapioca starch replaces the eggs and coconut/almond milk replace the cow version. It’s sort of a mindbender to eat something that is able to replicate the original qualities without all the original ingredients.
Salt naturally brings out the best flavors, even in desserts, so I recommend using at least a pinch in just about every sweet treat. More importantly, sugar is used as liberally to season to desserts as salt is used to season every other kind of food. My mom has always used less sugar than is commonly associated with desserts and I like to follow that template. In my eyes, a great dessert has sweet and savory elements, as well as different textures. Using freshly made bread makes a huge difference in this recipe because you can control every element. However, if you are short on time, use pretzel bread or brioche or whatever you like from the market and you won’t be disappointed. The first time I made this I used Whole Foods pretzel bread. I cooked it for a few minutes too long, so rather than the moist almost-custard center, it was more like a muffin, the second time it was cooked perfectly and absolutely delicious.
Vegan Bread Pudding: 12-16 muffin size servings
- 8 cups pretzel bread, cubed, recipe here
- 1 1/4 almonds, chopped
- 1/2-3/4 cup sugar, to taste
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks
- 2 cups coconut or almond milk
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2.5 tbsp granulated tapioca starch
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 or 2 small containers blackberries or rasperries
- 1 cup sugar, divided into 2 halves
- extra chocolate to melt, if desired
Combine almonds, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, chocolate, coconut milk, syrup, tapioca, cinnamon, and vanilla in a large bowl and mix well, season to taste with sugar as desired. Mix in bread, then gently mix in berries and let sit for at least 20 minutes up to 45. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil muffin pan and pack bread pudding mixture into the muffin pan. Place in oven, rotating halfway, for about 30 minutes or until set, but still creamy in the middle like traditional bread pudding made with eggs and dairy. Meanwhile, caramelize sugar on medium heat, stirring at first and then very occasionally when liquefying and turning golden brown. Swirl 1/2 cup more sugar in the pan and cook until darker and the mild aroma is that of caramelized sugar. Drizzle on wax paper in fancy designs and let set in cool area. Dislodge bread pudding from pan and garnish with caramelized sugar and fresh berries, melted chocolate would also be a nice garnish.