It’s well known that the East Bay boasts an array of fantastic take-out food. One of my favorites is a little Indian cafe where the curries are succulent, the buttery rice is speckled with saffron, and the tandoor-blistered naan bread is pillowy, warm, and as big as a record album.
It’s a rare occasion, but every once in a while, there’s leftover naan in my house. It didn’t take me long to turn it into a rich, dense sweet treat — one that’s equally delicious as a hearty dessert or a decadent brunch. With its heap of warm spices and its blankets of custard-soaked fruit and naan, this layered bread pudding is pure lusciousness. A nod to the Indian food behind it, cardamom is abundant in both the creamy pudding layers and the sweet caramel sauce drizzled over each slice.
Because it requires 8 hours of soaking (as many bread pudding recipes do), this recipe is especially fun to make when having overnight company, assembling it the night before and baking it over conversation, coffee and caramel-making in the leisurely morning. The recipe looks long, but it’s really quite easy — and its luxuriant, flavorful ingredients make it worth every step.
Layered Naan Bread Pudding (serves 9-12)
FOR THE BREAD PUDDING:
• 4 teaspoons ground cardamom
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• ½ cup brown or muscovado sugar
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 cups heavy whipping cream (plus more for caramel sauce)
• 2 cups milk
• 2 tablespoons softened butter
• 14 ounces naan bread (fresh or day old), from 2-4 naan, depending on size
• 4.5 ounces (about 2 cups) unsweetened dried apple rings (soft; not apple chips)
• ½ cup raisins
• 2 eggs
• 4 egg yolks
• finely grated zest of one orange
• scant ¼ cup turbinado sugar for sprinkling (optional)
Generously butter a deep 8 to 9” inch pan. (Mine is 8.5” square and glass. Not to worry if yours is slightly different; bread pudding is pretty forgiving, and the baking time can easily be adjusted.) Finely zest the outer peel of an orange; set zest aside (use the orange as you wish). On a cutting board, liberally stab each naan with a paring knife (don’t miss the outer edges), on both sides, to create extra holes. Then cut each naan into 10-12 triangles like a pizza; set aside. Separate any stuck-together apple rings, and trim any hard pieces, stems or cores. Cut any very large rings into halves or thirds for bite-sized ease; set aside.
Place cardamom and cinnamon in a small to medium saucepan over low heat. Toast spices in pan, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in the brown sugar, salt, cream, and milk. Return to medium heat, whisking regularly and watching closely for about 3-5 minutes, until mixture begins to boil and suddenly bubbles up the sides of the pan. At this moment, remove from heat and cover. Stir occasionally during its steeping time, while assembling the layers.
Place a layer of naan triangles in the bottom of the buttered pan, fitting them together to make a single level of bread. (If your naan has a darker, more toasted side, it’s best to place this side UP for the bottom layer, so that the toasted side does not get even more toasted by facing down against the bottom of the pan.) Top with an even layer of apple rings, then sprinkle with half the raisins. Repeat with another layer of naan, apples and raisins, and then a final layer of naan. Set aside.
In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks until even. Gradually pour 1 cup of the warm milk mixture into the eggs, and without delay, whisk vigorously until smooth. Add the rest of the milk mixture and mix well. Add the orange zest and stir until evenly dispersed. Slowly pour all of the custard over the layered naan, pressing top down gently to ensure its saturation. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar if using. Cover with foil and place in fridge for 8 to 10 hours. (You may opt to make the caramel sauce now or while the pudding bakes. Recipe follows.)
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. Keeping pudding covered with foil, place its pan inside a larger pan, and fill the bigger one halfway with hot water. Planning for about an hour and 50 minutes total baking time, place pan in oven and initially set timer for 1 hour. At 1 hour mark, rotate the pudding 180 degrees and peek under the foil; if the surface seems to need soaking, use a heatproof spoon to gently push top layer down. Re-cover with foil and continue baking in 15-20 minute increments, carefully checking the center with a paring knife after each. Pudding is done when the custard in the center is no longer liquidy. Remove foil for the last stint of baking.
Remove from oven. When just cooled enough to handle, slice into 9-12 squares and serve warm, drizzled with caramel sauce. If not eating it all right away, store covered at room temperature for up to 12 hours, or covered in the fridge for up to 24 hours, being sure to reheat before serving.
FOR THE CARDAMOM CARAMEL SAUCE:
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 3 tablespoons water
• 1 cup heavy whipping cream
In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cardamom and salt. Add the water and stir gently to combine. Place over medium heat and cook without stirring (you may gently swirl the pan once or twice, being careful not let mixture splash up the sides of the pan). Cook until the liquid is clear, bubbling vigorously, and not at all grainy.
Increase heat and boil for 3-5 minutes, staying nearby, and remove from heat just when liquid becomes a deep amber color. (Watch closely; it can burn quickly.) With pan away from heat, slowly pour in the cream. It will bubble and sputter when added, and may initially form a solid caramel ball – but not to worry: this will cook away. Return to low-medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for about 3-5 minutes, until caramel has become frothy and thick. Remove from heat; drizzle warm over pudding slices.
Moriah VanVleet is the voice behind butter, sugar, flowers where this recipe first appeared.