Bread pudding, like marmite, is just one of those things: you either love it or hate it. I belong in the first camp, along with my mom, who is a bread pudding super-enthusiast. The addition of apricots here gives a nice tartness to an otherwise very creamy dessert (as does the addition of Grand Marnier, which I think most desserts should endeavor to include), transforming a wintery dish into an undoubtedly summery one.
The recipe I found on Epicurious called for dried apricots, but having fresh ones on hand from the backyard garen, I decided to roast them to concentrate their flavor. This was uncharted territory for me. Lacking any kind of method, I just split them and put them in a 350 degree oven for about 50 minutes, completely naked, and they came out beautifully. Note to self: must try roasted apricots with greek yogurt and/or ricotta and/or crème anglaise and/or soaked in booze. Also: roast other fruits and see what happens.
For the bread pudding, I used a beautiful half loaf of brioche, but day-old croissants or even just plain white bread would work too. Examining the original recipe and imagining my arteries slamming shut, I balked at using 5 cups of cream in anything, so I immediately halved the entire recipe and replaced some of the cream with milk. Nevertheless, the result is truly decadent (if heart-stopping), with a crusty golden brulée top, and chunks of chewy sweet apricot throughout; a new and summery twist on an old favorite.
Apricot Bread Pudding
½ C. Grand Marnier
3 Tbsp. water
1 ¼ C. whipping cream
¾ C. whole milk
½ C. sugar, plus more for sprinkling
½ tsp vanilla and ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 to 4 cups day old brioche, cubed
About 6 apricots, split, stone removed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the cut apricots skin side down in a baking dish and roast for 50-60 minutes, until they are tender and starting to shrink. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cut into large dice. Next, combine the Grand Marnier and water in a small saucepan over low heat for about 8 minutes (to cook off most of the alcohol), remove from heat and allow to cool.
Whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla (extract and seeds scraped from the bean). In a large bowl, soak the cubed brioche and roasted apricots in the cream mixture, allowing to sit for about 20 minutes. Spoon the mixture into ramekins (should make about 6 or 7). Place ramekins in a roasting a dish filled with water to reach halfway up the ramekins. Sprinkle the tops if the bread pudding with 1 tsp. sugar each. Carefully place in the 350 degree oven and bake for 50-55 minutes.