Sunday, November 28, 2010

Scenes from My Down Home Thanksgiving, Some Shopping Suggestions, AND Caramel Croissant Bread Pudding

Hello friends! I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

I just returned from our Thanksgiving trip last night and now that the bags are unpacked and each and every tub containing Christmas decor has been carried up from the basement, I've decided to take a break from "the hanging of the greens" to share a few shots from our Thanksgiving dinner.

Here's the kid's table. What you don't see in this picture is the giant plastic tarp covering the floor under the kid table. With 6 grandchildren, all 6 years of age or under, I'm surprised that my parents don't just cover their whole house in plastic during the holidays. There's actually another baby on the way, so we may witness a complete vaccuum sealing of the house next year. That might be fun to long as I'm not enlisted to help.

I love the embroidery on the table runner my mom used this year. If you're interested, she picked this up at The Pottery Barn. Sure, Thanksgiving is over, but you might just be able to find one of these on clearance and use it next year. Looking ahead, I just found this Tag Whimsy Ornament 60-Inch Runnerthat would be perfect for the kid's table when we all get together again at Christmas. So cute!

Here's the "grown up" table.

A closer look at the place mom puts chargers under her plates to dress up the table.  Gold or silver chargers are versatile and give the whole tablescape a "rich" effect. I just found these for a steal on   Charger Set of 12 - Gold
Oh, and if you're in the market for napkin rings, check these out: DII Gold Finish Scroll Napkin Ring, Set of 6

The centerpiece. I was diggin' her pumpkin centerpiece. A nice change from the traditional cornucopia. And since I'm in the shopping mood, coming into Cyber Monday and all...I was thinking that this Christmas Gingerbread Lighted Centerpiecewould look really nice on my mom's table at our Christmas dinner...especially with her gold chargers. : )

This is the dessert table. I waited a bit after stuffing myself full of the appetizer and main course favorites, sitting at the table and visiting...just biding my that I could treat dessert as a whole separate meal. It was strategic. I mean, after all, how could I be expected to choose between Grandma's Pecan and Sugar Cream Pies, my sister's Cherry Delight, my Pumpkin Whoopie Pies and Cranberry Blondies, and my mom's Peter Pumpkin Dessert?

Oh yeah, and I forgot one more....the Caramel Croissant Bread Pudding that I made this year. Here it is, full of caramel and cream and Kentucky Bourbon! I first saw this recipe on The Seventh Level of Boredom. Not only do I enjoy Beth's recipes, I am also SO entertained by her writing. I forgot all about her post until I found the recipe again, while flipping through the pages of Food and Wine Magazine. I decided that this was the year to try a new bread pudding recipe.

I have to say, that I did my best to really mess this up, but luckily, I finished strong and our family scraped the dish clean by the end of Thanksgiving night.

As it always seems to be, Thanksgiving morning was a busy time in my mom's kitchen. The oven was fired up and all of the pre-made casseroles and side dishes were being rotated in and out. We were doing last minute prep work and trying to find time for a shower and making sure the kiddos were staying out of trouble.(At least on the farm you can send the kids out to the barn to play with the kittens.)

A skill that I learned early on from my mom is to delegate. And if you delegate to the young 'uns, then you can keep them out of trouble and keep an eye on them at the same time. In this time-honored tradition, my daughter was enlisted to follow in my footsteps by helping in the the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning. I have to say that she was excited to help out and very focused on the task of tearing up stale croissants for this dessert. Really. I promise.

However, she was much less excited about having her picture taken while she helped out. Man, this look is priceless.

While my daughter tended to the croissants, I measured out the sugar and water to make the caramel. I put it on the stovetop and then walked away to help with something else. A little bit later, I returned to find it boiling like crazy. Weird. I hadn't turned on the burner. But the time I found it the sugar was almost completely dry and re-crystallized. I could barely stir it. I added a little water and stirred trying to break it up and re-dissolve. I stirred, added a little more water. Stirred, added a little more water. Adjusted the heat. Stirred, added a little more water....and so on. I was trying to get it to caramelize and smooth out, but it was so clumpy that it wasn't cooperating. You see, you're supposed to stir the sugar and water over moderately high heat until the sugar dissolves, THEN cook without stirring until a medium amber caramel forms, which takes about 5 minutes. Only, I never stirred mine. I had planned to, when I got back to it, but while I was distracted with other tasks, my efficient mom had turned on the burner. I have no idea how long the stuff had been boiling and I NEVER stirred it. As I was explaining what had happened to my grandma, my mom overhead me from the other room and called out, "I told you that I was turning it on." Clearly, I did not inherit her super-sonic hearing ability, because I could swear I never heard her tip me off to the fact that my sugar water-intended-for-caramel was heating up. Oh well.

As my brother-in-law joked when my sister became frustrated with him a some point during our Thanksgiving festivities, "Babe, let's focus on the HAPPY in Happy Thanksgiving, okay?"

Of course, we all laughed. But he made a good point. Don't sweat the small stuff. We were all together and healthy, induldging in a ridiculously extravagant meal by the world's standard. And after all, my mom was just trying to help.

Here's my sugar water a-boilin'.

It finally turned a pretty amber color.

I stirred in heavy cream, milk, and bourbon to the caramelized sugar.

Here's the bourbon that I used in this recipe. As I was perusing the selection of bourbon in my local grocer's liquor store I came to the realization that bourbon is EXPENSIVE! Another shopper pointed out that there was additional (and possibly cheaper) bourbon available behind the counter. Apparently, bourbon needs to be a controlled substance. I quickly spotted one that was less expensive than the others. After some discussion with the guy behind the counter, I was assured that just because this particular brand was less expensive, it was still of the best quality. He placed it in a little brown bag and I handed over the cash. Some of the other shoppers teased me, "Sure, it's for a recipe." I have to note that everyone was in super spirits as I shopped for my Thanksgiving dessert ingredients. There was a sense of camaraderie as I cruised the aisles of two stores. Everyone seemed extra happy and talkative. Perhaps thankful? Maybe it was just that fact that everyone was looking forward to a loooong weekend....

I can assure all of you that this bourbon was definitely for my recipe. I can't touch the stuff. One "whiff" from an opened bottle sends me into a full body twitch complete with a funny little cough that unintentionally escapes me at the end. I'm not sure what's up with that. I have a girlfriend that was born and raised in Kentucky and she loves bourbon. Many of the men in my family enjoy it too. Heck, they can even drink it all by itself, over just a few ice cubes. But I don't get "it". The intrigue of a "smooth" bourbon is completely lost on me.

I may have accidentally added an extra "glug" of this bourbon to the bread pudding. You could definitely taste it in there! Luckily, I liked the bourbon in this recipe.

Unfortunately, no amount of stirring would eliminate all of the sugar lumps from the negligence that had occurred early in this recipe. I ended up straining the mixture through a sieve. Check out these sugar lumps that I extracted.

I was supposed to gradually whisk the eggs into the hot caramel mixture. However, since the caramel was in a bowl from the straining, I lightly beat the eggs in the saucepan that I'd used to heat the sugar. No way was I adding another dish to the growing pile next to the sink....

I gradually whisked the hot mixture into the eggs.

Once it's all combined, pour the caramel mixture over the croissants.

Let it sit for 10 minutes.

Then bake for 20 minutes until puffed and golden. I pulled this out of the oven just as my family was sitting down to dinner, so it was perfectly warm by the time we were ready for dessert.

The verdict: This bread pudding was a hit! However, I still prefer the Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce that I made last Christmas. I like a sauce on my bread pudding. Luckily, my mom came to the rescue for this one. I was far too full from dinner to cook anything else by the time that I realized that this bread pudding might be enhanced by a sauce. She had a jar of Robert Rothschild Farm Old-Fashioned Caramel Sauce that we warmed up and served over the dessert. It was pretty spectacular!

Here's the recipe:

Caramel-Croissant Pudding

2 stale all-butter croissants, coarsely torn
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 large eggs, beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly butter a 1-quart shallow baking dish and arrange the croissant pieces in the dish. In a small saucepan, stir the sugar and water over moderately high heat until the sugar dissolves; wash down any crystals on the sides with a wet pastry brush. Cook without stirring until a medium amber caramel forms, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream, milk and bourbon. Cook over low heat just until any hardened caramel dissolves.

2. In a bowl, whisk the eggs. Gradually whisk in the hot caramel. Pour over the croissants and let stand for 10 minutes, pressing the croissants to keep them submerged.

3. Bake the pudding in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until puffed and golden. Let cool for 10 minutes, then serve.

A couple more notes:
*I doubled this recipe for our Thanksgiving dinner and prepared it in a larger baking dish.

*If you haven't wrapped up your shopping after all of those "sweet" Black Friday deals or you have no desire to brave a crowded shopping mall ( the traffic and parking can be a nightmare!) remember, tomorrow is Cyber Monday! You can access some great deals by clicking the link right under my search bar in the top right-hand corner of this blog. Happy Shopping!


theUngourmet said...

Your table settings were so pretty and I loved your pumpkin centerpiece. Croissants in bread pudding is a fabulous idea! Yum!

Inspired by eRecipeCards said...

I need to try the butter croissants in the pudding. You have such a beautiful golden brown and delicious looking photo.

Kim said...

The table settings for both the adult table and the kids tables look terrific. And, I love the pic of your daughter tearing up the croissants. She looks as about enthused as mine did to help. It looks like the bread pudding turned out really good, despite the issues. Glad to hear you all had a great time!

teresa said...

LOVE the bread pudding. it looks like you had a lovely thanksgiving!

Mary | Deep South Dish said...

Very nice! Yes, me thinks your daughter is coming upon, "that age." Sounds like you had a perfect family Thanksgiving!

Desi said...

I love your mother's Thanksgiving runner and her pumpkin centerpiece... so cute! I want to try both of your bread pudding recipes :)

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