Old-fashioned bread pudding is enjoying a delicious revival all across the Valley. We found some creative, custardy twists
713 E. Palo Verde Dr., Phoenix
We get hot for a cold horchata drink on a warm day, but sometimes our stomachs need a more substantial diversion. Thankfully, as fashioned by the clever cooks at Fuego, horchata – a traditional Mexican beverage made with rice, milk, vanilla, nuts and cinnamon – serves as the scrumptious lifeblood of the Latin American eatery’s signature bread pudding. The blend of breads – croissants, French bread and the baguette-like Mexican bolillo – are all infused with chocolate chips, cinnamon and that honeyed horchata, cobbled together in a thick, custardy slab.
To cap off the smoky cinnamon flavor, the cooks finish the dish with homemade ancho chile chocolate sauce, their own Captain Morgan-amaretto sauce, and scoops of chocolate malted crunch ice cream. There are two ways to eat this creation – pudding first, to bask in the bready warmth before moving into the deliciously crunchy ice cream, or all at once in hedonistic mouthfuls. Either way, you win.
Citizen Public House
7111 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale
Tracy Dempsey is a rock star of dessert. With her company, Tracy Dempsey Originals, she handcrafts confections for some of the Valley’s best restaurants, including this gastropub. Dishes change often, but her bread pudding is always superb. The bacon-loving confectioner’s “Pig in the Orchard” pudding combines applewood-smoked bacon, Granny Smith apples and cinnamon ice cream in a fluffy, custard-dense union. We’d happily start the day with her Donuts & Coffee, despite it being a rich dessert of bourbon-glazed donut bread pudding swimming in vanilla sauce and topped with cafe au lait ice cream and brown sugar streusel. Dempsey constantly invents new pudding incarnations, like chocolate-toffee-cherry, ancho chile-apple, pineapple-rum-coconut, pumpkin-pepitas or lemon-blueberry. She thinks outside the breadbox, too – “bagels and corn bread are intriguing for the base, bringing a little texture and flavor change-up,” she says.
English Rose Tea Room
201 Easy St., Carefree
According to food historians, bread pudding originated as a way for 13th century cooks to constructively make use of scrap ingredients and stale bread. Instead of a decadent dessert, most “poor man’s” puddings were scattered with meat trim, fat, bone marrow and past-their-prime vegetables. Thank goodness for progress. The charming-as-all-get-out English Rose Tea Room keeps the savory bread pudding spirit alive but in much more sumptuous form, using only pristine ingredients. Owner Joanne Gemmill presents this hot-from-the-oven dish as a hearty entrée complete with a crisp green side salad. Drag your fork through two hearty slabs studded with ham, cheese, potatoes, eggs, tomatoes and onion, all smothered in a homemade cheese sauce. Wash it down with one of the tea room’s fruity brews, like black tea infused with plump blackcurrants.
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