Think of this indulgent breakfast as a composed version of French toast. It features layers of buttered bread baked into an eggy custard atop a hidden layer of cinnamon-spiced pears. This simple, comforting dish is easy to embellish with other fruits, such as apples, or peaches and nectarines during summer.
Bread-and-Butter Pudding with Caramelized Pears
6 Tbs. (3 oz./90 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ripe pears, such as Anjou or Comice, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
1/3 cup (3 oz./90 g.) plus 2 tsp. sugar
6 slices day-old challah
2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml.) whole milk
4 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Confectioners’ sugar for serving
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Generously grease a 2-quart (2-l.) shallow baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter.
In a large fry pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the pears and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons sugar and stir gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pears begin to caramelize, about 3 minutes more. Spread in the prepared baking dish.
Butter one side of each of the bread slices with the remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Cut each bread slice in half. Arrange the bread over the pears, buttered side down, in overlapping rows. In a large bowl, whisk the milk, eggs, 1/3 cup sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until combined. Pour over the bread. Press the bread lightly to submerge it in the egg mixture. Let stand until the bread has soaked up the egg mixture, 10-15 minutes.
Bake until a knife inserted in the center of the bread pudding comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Serve warm. Serves 4 to 6.
Variation: Omit the ground cinnamon and substitute sliced cinnamon-raising bread for the challah.