Dear Kate: Unapologetically rich, Zea's dense sweet potato bread pudding has an almost cake-like texture, with a crunchy pecan topping. It's great on its own, but baptized with a thick, sweet rum sauce, it's downright inspired.
Zea's sweet potato bread pudding with rum sauce
Total time: 1½ hours, plus cooling time
Servings: 12 to 16
Note: Adapted from Zea Rotisserie and Grill in New Orleans. The restaurant bakes the pudding in a 3-inch-deep casserole dish; if using a dish this depth, the baking time can increase by as much as an hour.
Sweet potato bread pudding
3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (from 1 large boiled, peeled and mashed sweet potato)
1/3 pound butter, melted
1 quart milk
1 cup (5 ounces) raisins
1 pound stale French bread cubes, cut into ½-by-½-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large glass or nonreactive bowl using a hand mixer, beat the eggs. Slowly beat in the sugar, then beat in the pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract. Beat in the mashed sweet potatoes until thoroughly combined, then beat in the butter. Add the milk, beating until all of the ingredients are completely and thoroughly incorporated. If using a stand mixer, transfer the custard base to a large glass or nonreactive bowl.
2. Using your hands, mix the bread cubes and raisins into the custard base. Cover and refrigerate the mixture overnight.
3. Shortly before baking, heat the oven to 275 degrees. Thoroughly stir the mixture, making sure there are no white spots of un-soaked bread (it is fine if the soaked bread breaks down somewhat as you stir), and check to see that the raisins are evenly distributed.
4. Pour the mixture into a lightly buttered 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Lightly scatter and press the pecans onto the top of the pudding.
5. Bake the pudding until it has puffed and the custard is set in the center, about 70 to 90 minutes. Remove the pudding to a rack to cool for 2 hours before serving.
2 cups light corn syrup
1/4 cup dark rum
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, heat the corn syrup, rum and vanilla to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and, using a whisk, vigorously beat in the softened butter. Keep at room temperature until ready to serve. This makes about 3 cups sauce.
Each of 16 servings: 735 calories; 10 grams protein; 104 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 32 grams fat; 15 grams saturated fat; 161 mg cholesterol; 61 grams sugar; 272 mg sodium.