recipe: caramel pear bread pudding

caramel pear sourdough bread pudding

Recipe by Chef Annette TomeiCourse: DessertCuisine: DessertDifficulty: Medium

This recipe was adapted from a recipe published in Gourmet Magazine in the early 1990s. I adapted it for use in my restaurant in the mid-90s and it has been an autumn staple for me ever since.

If you’ve been baking sourdough bread during the pandemic times, this is a great place to use leftovers of your practice.

This is served like a tarte tatin or upside down cake (it has to be turned out). The original recipe is made in a large soufflé dish. You can substitute a square cake pan but it has to be deep enough. This bakes in a hot water bath, so make sure the pan fits inside a bigger one. Because of the water bath, special precautions are necessary for using a springform pan (see notes).

Pairing suggestion:
Madeira, tawny port, Highland or Speyside Scotch whisky, off-dry pear cider, chai-spice tea, oolong tea


  • 2 ripe green pears, cored and sliced into sixths (peeling is optional)

  • custard
  • 2 eggs

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1-2/3 cup milk (whole, 2%, or oat milk)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt

  • 5-6 thick slices sourdough bread (with or without crusts, I like with), cut into 1-inch cubes

  • caramel
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 Tablespoon cold water

  • 2 Tablespoons cold butter

  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt


  • custard
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks. Whisk in the sugar in a steady stream.
  • Heat the milk in a saucepan to simmer, not boil.
  • Temper the egg mixture with the hot milk: while whisking, add a small amount of the hot milk to the egg mixture, slowly add more, avoiding adding the hot milk too fast. It will cook the eggs.
  • Add the vanilla, spices, and salt.
  • Place the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Pour over the custard mixture. Stir.
  • Set aside for 20-40 minute to allow the bread to absorb the custard.
  • caramel and pears
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Generously butter a 1-1/2 quart soufflé dish, bottom and sides. (can sub 8x8x2 baking pan)
  • Neatly arrange the pear slices in a circular pattern in the soufflé dish.
  • Put the sugar in a medium size heavy bottom deep sauce pan. Moisten the sugar with 1 Tablespoon water (use your fingers to mix it to the consistency of wet sand – careful not to get any on the sides of the pan).
  • Heat the sugar over medium-high heat. Do not stir or swirl.
  • Gently brush the sides of the saucepan near the edge of the sugar with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar from crystalizing on the sides, especially if you swirled the pan! Crystallization of the sides is doom for caramel.
  • As the sugar begins to show color, now you can swirl the pan (do not stir with a utensil) to assure it browns evenly. Reduce the heat.
  • Cook the caramel until it is just past pale golden. Remove from heat and immediately add a tablespoon of cold water by pouring it along the side of the pot. CAREFULLY!!! This is to stop the cooking The caramel will sputter and splash… keep your face and hands out of the way. (this is why you are using a deep pot).
  • Allow the caramel to cool for about 3-5 minutes. Swirl in the butter and salt.
  • Pour the caramel over the pears in the soufflé dish. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  • assembling
  • Bring 1 quart of water to a boil.
  • Fill the soufflé dish with the soaked bread cubes. Press down gently.
  • Place the soufflé dish on top of a paper towel in a larger baking pan.
  • Place this on the middle rack of the oven (rack pulled out so you can reach).
  • GENTLY pour boiled water into the larger pan until it comes at least 1 inch up the side of the soufflé dish (half way up if the outer pan is deep enough). GENTLY push the rack back in and close the oven.
  • Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Test by tapping the side to see if it is set (jiggles slightly, not in a liquid way). You can also use a cake tester: it should come out clean or with moist crumbs, not wet.
  • To remove from the oven, pull the rack out and carefully remove the whole pan to the stove top (do NOT try to walk across a room with this, it is dangerous).
  • Remove the soufflé dish from the water bath. Cool for approximately 10-15 minutes.
  • Run a thin knife around the edge of the pudding. Place a large plate over the top of the soufflé dish. CAREFULLY turn the bread pudding out onto the plate.
  • If the pudding does not come out, place a hot damp cloth on the upturned bottom of the soufflé to help loosen the caramel. If the pudding comes out but the pears and caramel are stuck, microwave the dish for 30 seconds and use a spoon to remove them gently and replace them.
    This is a rustic dessert, do not get upset if it isn’t perfect!


  • Using a springform pan: Assemble your springform pan then wrap the bottom edge in a single sheet of plastic wrap. THEN wrap the bottom and sides with ONE single sheet of aluminum foil large enough to hold the pan (no seams). This is to prevent any water seeping in through the cracks during baking.
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