Sweet Potato Bread Pudding with Bourbon Cayenne Syrup


This was the best thing I ate in New Orleans on my last trip

Served at an outstanding Creole/French restaurant called Patois (to be featured in an upcoming blog post), this pudding remixes its components in ways that I had never imagined. If you can’t do six impossible things before breakfast, consider eating three of them for dessert.

So what’s going on here? First of all, in New Orleans, sweet potato is as normal a dessert flavour as, say, apple, or plum. This shouldn’t be that hard to believe (the word “sweet” is right there in the name…) but it threw me through a loop at first. Once I tried it though, I was mostly just surprised at how weird it isn’t.

At Patois they served it with a toasted marshmallow ice cream. Marshmallow and sweet potato are a familiar and classic combination in the states, especially at Thanksgiving. As I don’t have that memory and didn’t particularly notice the toasted marshmallow flavour, I’ve opted to replace it with (on different occasions) truffle, tonka bean or banana flavoured ice creams. (If you don’t want to make your own, a scoop of good-quality vanilla would do nicely as well.)

But what made this dessert stand out from the pack was the chilli spice notes of the bourbon-cayenne syrup. The confusing, warming sensation of the cayenne is tempered almost immediately by the ice cream, but it’s still a hard left turn down an unmarked swamp road right into the heart of flavour country. Also, since nothing is made worse with a little bourbon in it, the syrup gets a good dose of that too.

Sweet potato bread pudding a la mode, with bourbon-cayenne syrup

Makes 6-8 portions

For the Pudding

Preheat oven to 200C
Peel the sweet potato and dice into 1.5cm cubes. In an ovenproof casserole dish, roast the sweet potato with the butter at 200C for 40 minutes, or until soft and starting to go brown. Cut the bread into 1.5cm cubes and toast in the oven on a tray or cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes. Remove both from the oven and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 180C
Mix the toasted bread, sweet potato (and melted butter from roasting), demerara sugar, salt and the fruit and/or nuts (if using) in a large mixing bowl. The mixture should look like a chunky mess but with each ingredient more or less evenly distributed throughout.
Pack into a lightly greased loaf tin, casserole dish or muffin/cupcake tins
and set to one side.

Mix the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk in the milk and cream a little at a time to create a smooth custard. Pour the custard over the bread/sweet potato mixture until you can just see the level of the custard rise up into view. Lightly press the bread down with a metal tablespoon so that the custard “floods” the bread mixture, soaking it through. Transfer to oven and bake for 25-40 minutes or until pudding is fully set and lightly browned on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

At this stage, the pudding will keep for a week in the fridge in an airtight container. It can be served as slices, as whole cubes or as individual muffin-tin portions – just rewarm in the oven at 140C for 10-15 mins and pour over the warm bourbon-cayenne syrup.

For the Bourbon Cayenne syrup

Place the sugar, butter and cream in a small saucepan. Heat slowly over a low heat while stirring until all are melted and the sugar is well dissolved. Remove from heat and add the cayenne, bourbon and maple syrup (if using) and stir. At this stage the syrup will keep for about a month in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat in a saucepan, stirring well if the syrup has gone grainy.  Pour over the pudding and add a scoop of your choice of ice cream, and serve.