Sticky Date and Caramel Challah Bread Pudding
1 cup (61⁄2 oz/200 g) pitted soft dates
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large challah, homemade (page 30) or store-bought, cut into small cubes or thin slices
5 large eggs
4 tablespoons (2 oz/60 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1⁄4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) heavy cream or half-and-half
For the Caramel
1⁄2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) heavy cream
4 tablespoons (2 oz/60 g) unsalted butter
1⁄2 cup (31⁄2 oz/105 g) firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) water to a boil over high heat. Add the dates and baking soda, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is bubbly and the dates have completely softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl and stir in the vanilla. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat on high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Alternatively, transfer to a blender and process until creamy. Let cool.
Place the challah in a 15-by-10-inch (38-by-25-cm) glass baking dish. You can arrange the cubes or slices in neat layers or just throw them all in. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter,
cream, and a pinch of salt until foamy, about 2 minutes. Pour in the cooled date mixture and stir
to combine. Pour evenly over the challah. Use your hands to push the challah down into the liquid to ensure all of the pieces are immersed. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake the pudding until it is golden and the edges are crisped, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the caramel: In a small saucepan, combine the cream, butter, and brown sugar. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until a thick caramel forms, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to burn the caramel, or yourself! Keep the caramel on the lowest heat setting while the bread pudding bakes.
When the pudding is ready, remove it from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes, then drizzle the caramel over the top. To make in advance, let cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat in a 350°F (180°C) oven until warm before serving.