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Whiskey Pudding

Associate Wine Guy Mark Finch has been working on this recipe for years. He tried it out on us last Sunday and wow... is it good!

My favorite thing on the menu at the old Key West Shrimp House on Madison Avenue was their Whiskey Pudding. I've built it up in my mind in the decades since they closed, but I think this version is at least as good. (I'm the only other person who remembers Key West Shrimp House ... good grief, I took my senior prom date there for dinner! - WG) This is a great way to use two stale French batards (or three stale French baguettes) from Grapevine Cottage....

Makes 12 servings

PREHEAT oven to 325 degrees

For the Pudding

1 cup raisins
1 cup dark rum
2 cups whole milk
2 cups half & half
1 pound French bread
3 eggs
2 cups natural sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the Sauce
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup golden brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup natural sugar
1 egg
2 ounces Bourbon whiskey
sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)

Place raisins in glass or small bowl, and pour in enough dark rum to cover. Let soak for at least one hour; if you have time, soak for three days and add more rum as it is absorbed by the raisins.

As oven is preheating, generously butter a 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish. A 2-inch depth will do, but 4-inch is preferable.

Cut French bread into approximate one-inch cubes, making sure to include the crust. (Stale bread works as well as fresh for this recipe, if not better.) Place bread in large bowl, then pour the milk and half and half over it; let soak five minutes.

While bread is soaking, whisk eggs with butter, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in medium bowl; pour over bread. Add the raisins and rum, then toss mixture to distribute.

Transfer bread mixture to prepared baking dish and bake at 325 degrees until top is deep golden brown, about one hour. If you are using a 2-inch deep dish, the pudding will almost certainly puff up over the top of it.

While the pudding is cooling somewhat, gradually whisk both sugars into the melted butter at low heat until they have dissolved. Whisk egg in the medium bowl you used when making the pudding, and gradually whisk in a little of the butter-and-sugar mixture. Return mixture to saucepan and whisk until smooth, about a minute; do not boil. Remove sauce from heat and whisk in the Bourbon.

Spoon warm bread pudding into bowls or plates and ladle sauce over. If you like, top with dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream before serving.

NOTES: Don't even think about trying to make a low-sugar or low-fat version of this dish -- it's DESSERT, fergoshsakes! Use the darkest blackstrap rum you can find to maximize molasses content. Similarly, avoid white refined sugar and use something like Sugar in the Raw for best results. I use French or Irish butter, as their butterfat content is higher than most domestic butter. I also use double-strength vanilla extract from Penzey's, and Creamline whole milk from Trader's Point Creamery. Use a pungent Bourbon for the sauce, but bear in mind that the alcohol doesn't evaporate and stick to 86 proof!