Based on “Rum Raisin Bread Pudding” by The Neelys on Down Home with the Neelys

Cranberry Rum Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Initially, I was averse to ever trying Bread Pudding of any kind. All my friends will attest to the fact that I am one of the pickiest eaters! I don’t like anything soggy, so I eat my cereal dry and ask for gravy or sauces on the side. I don’t dip my French Dip. I especially don’t want au jus poured over my Italian Beef (Sorry my fellow Chicagoans!)

Years ago a friend invited me to brunch at a little bistro, which I believe was on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. I would tell you where, but neither my friend nor I can remember the name, just that it was on a corner across the street from an antique store. I’m not really a breakfast or brunch eater. I dislike any sort of egg, which is the mainstay of brunches around the world. Fried, poached, coddled, quiche, frittata, even scrambled with an entire bottle of A1 Steak Sauce in them, I don’t like them. I was overjoyed when I learned recently on an episode of Guy’s Grocery Games, that Guy Fieri doesn’t like them either. I’m not big on regular pancakes, they are to mushy because they absorb all the butter and syrup. So as usual I struggled to find something to eat, hoping there would be a sandwich or salad I would like. I settled for my usual BLT, while she and her husband had Eggs Benedict and an American breakfast plate. We drank Mimosa’s and had a nice time and was surprised when she wanted to order dessert – not a usual occurrence at brunch. She ordered Bread Pudding.

I have to admit, I had never actually seen bread pudding outside of a picture prior to this occasion. It wasn’t something that my mother ever made. I had seen and tasted rice pudding before and hadn’t liked it. I assumed that bread pudding would be like a lot of French Toasts I had tried, soggy and way to wet. After some convincing, I agreed to try it and I was pleasantly surprised. The top was crunchy and the nuts and drunken raisins added texture to the creaminess of the custard. I was a convert (but I still don’t like soggy bread!)

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Brioche Bread

As Halloween and Thanksgiving approach, all the stores are stocking everything pumpkin-spiced or pumpkin flavored, and Trader Joe’s is no exception. We didn’t have this chain in Chicago when I lived there and is one of the few things I love about coming to Los Angeles, that and In-And-Out Burgers! While it’s not a huge grocery store, Trader Joe’s does carry most of the necessities, but not every item is carried year round. I love discovering new items every time I go in or get The Fearless Flyer in the mail. One such item was their Pumpkin Brioche. It was like eating a slice of pumpkin pie. I was eating a couple of slices and was thinking about what I wanted to bake, when it dawned on me that I was literally eating my answer…Bread Pudding.

You can find a basic Bread Pudding in almost any cookbook, but I went to my Food Network Kitchen app and looked through all the different kinds until I spotted Rum Raisin Bread Pudding by The Neelys. Part of the reason I chose their recipe, was because it called for the exact amount of slices of brioche that I had remaining. Now, most of the recipes call for the milk and cream to be warmed to dissolve the sugar. I found that if I whisked the wet ingredients with the sugar and spices while I was toasting the bread, that the sugar actually dissolved on it’s own. If you do decide to warm the milk, make sure that it is cooled before you add your eggs; otherwise, you will end up with scrambled eggs. You can also accomplish this by tempering your eggs.

Cubed and Toasted Brioche and Custard

Tempering for a sweet recipe is slightly different than for savory recipes. You should whisk your eggs with the sugar then add your warm milk a little at a time to bring up the temperature of the eggs to the temperature of the liquid. Always start this with room temperature eggs; otherwise, you are guaranteed to scramble them. After all the milk is added, strain the mixture to catch any small solids that may have formed during the process. Once they are tempered, you can add the spices and rum.

A few of the recipes also suggested toasting the bread. The reason for this is to remove some of the moisture from the bread, which will then make it absorb more of the custard as you are soaking it. If you prefer your bread pudding a little moister, you can skip this step and just cube the bread. Cut the bread into cubes, each slice yields 9 cubes, and then add it to your custard mixture. Let it soak up the custard for about 30 minutes. You may need to stir occasionally to make sure none of the bread is just floating on the top.

Bread Pudding ready for the oven

When it’s time to bake your pudding, make sure you generously grease your dish, either with butter or vegetable spray. While you will usually be serving this dessert in the dish you baked it in, this will make it easier for you to dish out each portion. I like having anything crunchy on top of most of my desserts, so the final step for preparing this dish is to drizzle melted butter on top and sprinkle it with turbinado sugar. Turbinado sugar is a less refined sugar. It is most similar to brown sugar, but has less moisture and less molasses. Most people are familiar with it from the crunchy tops of muffins or the packets of Sugar in the Raw, that you see at some coffee shops and stores. If you don’t have this on hand, you can sprinkle the top with brown sugar instead.

Depending on your stove, the bake time can take anywhere from 50 minutes to a little over an hour. It is ready when the custard is set and the top is a nice golden brown. If you find that the top is browning too fast, cover with aluminum foil until the custard is baked. Cool for about 20 minutes before serving. You can serve as is, or you may want to top it with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream or a little bit of marscapone cheese.


Cranberry Rum Pumpkin Brioche Pudding

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Credit: The Neelys on Down Home with the Neelys


  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove
  • 3 – 6 tablespoons light rum
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 7 slices Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Brioche Bread
  • 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar


  1. Rehydrate dried cranberries in 3 tablespoons rum for 24 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. Toast brioche bread until lightly brown.
  4. Whisk together eggs, cream, milk, vanilla bean paste, brown sugar, and spices.
  5. Remove rehydrated cranberries from rum. Measure remaining liquid, if any, and add enough rum to make 3 tablespoons. Add to custard.
  6. Cut toasted brioche into squares and add to custard. Let sit 30 minutes to absorb custard.
  7. Butter 9 x 13 baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter and pour in pudding.
  8. Melt remaining butter and drizzle over pudding. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  9. Bake 50 minutes, or until browned and custard is set.
  10. Let cool slightly before serving warm or at room temperature.


  1. Replace dried cranberries with raisins.
  2. Add chopped walnuts or pecans.
  3. If you prefer a more custardy bread pudding, add 2 more cups cream, increase spices and rum by half and add 2 more egg yolks. Baking time may increase.
  4. Bake in individual ramekins. Cook time may decrease with this method, so start checking at around 40 minutes to see if the custard has set.

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