Thursday, December 26, 2013


As you might have seen from a previous post, last year's Christmas I was alone and passed the time making Japanese dyed scarves. I'm actually fine with being alone on major holidays, although that didn't used to be the case. Still, this year it was a treat to spend Christmas with two of my favorite people, Puck and Katie, at Katie's new home in Brooklyn.

I got permission to work from home on Christmas Eve, and it was a good thing I did because I needed every moment to finish making a bourbon bread pudding for the party. Since everyone seems to like it so much, here's the recipe:

New Orleans Bourbon Bread Pudding


1 French baguette (18- to 20-inch), torn into 1-inch pieces (10 cups)
1 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup bourbon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled, plus extra for baking dish
8 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange bread in single layer on baking sheet and bake until crisp and browned, about 12 minutes, turning pieces over halfway through drying time and rotating baking sheet front to back. Let bread cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

2. Meanwhile, heat raisins with 1/2 cup bourbon in small saucepan over medium-high heat until bourbon begins to simmer, 2 to 3 minutes. Strain mixture, reserving bourbon and raisins separately.

3. Butter 13 by 9-inch broiler-safe baking dish. Whisk yolks, brown sugar, cream, milk, vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon (reserving the 1/2 teaspoon for the topping), nutmeg, and salt in large bowl. Whisk in remaining 1/4 cup bourbon plus bourbon used to plump raisins. Toss in toasted bread until evenly coated. Let mixture sit until bread begins to absorb custard, about 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. If majority of bread is still hard when squeezed, soak for another 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Pour half of bread mixture into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with half of raisins. Pour remaining bread mixture into dish and sprinkle with remaining raisins. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, mix granulated sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl. Using fingers, cut 6 tablespoons butter into sugar mixture until size of small peas. Remove foil from pudding, sprinkle with butter mixture, and bake, uncovered, until custard is just set, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove pudding from oven and heat broiler.

6. Once broiler is heated, broil pudding until top forms golden crust, about 2 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Serve. (Leftover bread pudding should be refrigerated; reheat individual portions in microwave.)

This time I even made the accompanying bourbon sauce to go with it, as follows:


1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup bourbon
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces


Whisk cornstarch and 2 tablespoons bourbon in small bowl until well combined. Heat cream and sugar in small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Whisk in cornstarch mixture and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until sauce thickens, 3 to 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in salt, butter, and remaining 2 tablespoons bourbon. Drizzle warm sauce over cut bread pudding. (Sauce can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 5 days; reheat on stovetop.)

I walked over to the Met Store in Rockefeller Center on my lunch break to pick up my traditional creche angel tree ornament for 2013. They didn't have any on display, but the clerks found a few in the back room, so I was just in time to get one for myself, and one for Katie to hang on her tree. I even had time to get down to Mr. Pei's shop and pick up my order of chops for Kacey and Becker, and one for Puck with their new name, Robin Goodfellow, engraved on it. All in all, it was a bit of a rush to get everything done and get to Katie's place, since I'd never been there before I went down a few blind alleys along the way.

I met Katie's mom, Gindy, who is a charming and funny woman with a sharp sense of self-deprecating humor. We decorated Katie's tree and took a picture to commemorate her first tree in her new home - you can see the angel ornament at her eye level, just to the left of the tree center.

We took turns opening Christmas poppers and presents before a dinner of salad, roasted vegetables and a bourbon glazed ham, which was delicious. After stuffing ourselves, we played a game of Pandemic, a board game about stopping a global outbreak of disease and plague - perfect for Christmas night :P We talked until about 11:30 before Gindy had to go home to appease the cat, and the three of us stayed up and talked until it was finally time to turn the lights out at around 3:30 am.

As my body has an unfortunate tendency of doing, I woke up at 8 am, got dressed and explored Katie's vast number of books while waiting for them to wake up. After morning coffee, we played some more card games, and hung out until Gindy came by in the afternoon for their own gift exchange and family traditions. We took a sneak peek at Gindy's work-in-progress apartment downstairs before heading home to TSMC.

Puck and I spent the afternoon and evening together, finishing the first season of Fringe, listening to music and starting to read E. B. White's Trumpet of the Swan aloud. We went out to Rockefeller Center around 9:30 pm to see the tree and the Saks Fifth Avenue holiday light show and the adorable window displays of the snow-making Yeti that stars in this year's show.

I never expect Puck to make a big thing about Christmas since they didn't grow up celebrating it. Frankly, I outgrew Christmas with my birth family pretty quickly. But my New Jersey family helped me rediscover the magic of the holiday, and I've been missing that in my life, even though Puck and I have had our own Christmas adventures. But this year, thanks to people I consider my family now, I had the most lovely, most meaningful Christmas I've had in years.