Maple Pecan Bread Pudding

Ahhhhh, bread. You magical, delicious, endlessly transformable delight. While I'm a big lover of bread in all its forms (gimme that good, good toast every day, all day), I think bread pudding, whether savory or sweet, is as good as it gets. Gooey, crunchy, warm, and just the perfect treat (especially when it's halfway through May and in upstate NY it's still only 40 degrees outside. Sigh.), this version is studded with pecans that caramelize marvelously while baking. It's a great make ahead dish that can be reheated when you need it, though even if you make it all in one sitting, the prep doesn't take long and it comes together in a snap.

Maple Pecan Bread Pudding

6 cups stale bread, cut into 1 1/2-2 in cubes (if not stale, cube and toast briefly)

1 1/2 cups and 1 1/4 cups almond milk, divided

3 tbsp coconut oil

2/3 cup maple syrup

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp salt, divided

1/3 cup corn starch

1 cup pecans, chopped

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup vegan butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x9 baking dish.

2. Place bread in dish and set aside.

3. In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together 1 1/2 cups almond milk, coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, and 1/2 tsp salt.

4. While that mixture is heating, put the corn starch in a small bowl and, from the 1 1/4 cup almond milk, pour 1/2 cup over the corn starch and stir with a fork until there are no lumps. Add to the remaining almond milk, stir, and set aside.

5. Once the almond milk-maple syrup mixture is boiling, lower heat and, whisking constantly, pour in the almond milk/corn starch blend. Bring to a steady simmer, whisking, until it thickens to nearly the consistency of pudding. Pour over the bread in the baking dish, evenly coating all the pieces, and set aside.

6. In a small bowl, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar, and then the pecans. Spoon the mixture over the bread budding and bake for 40-45 minutes, until lightly browned. Let sit for 6-10 minutes before serving.

It's easy to prep and assemble, super yummo reheated, and pairs so nicely with fresh fruit or ice cream! Enjoy!

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