When my husband and I bought our house in Santa Monica, I started planting fruit trees. The house came with a dwarf fig tree, an old (and finicky) avocado tree, and a Eureka lemon tree down by the back driveway. Over the years I've put in two Meyer lemons, a tangerine, an orange, two limes, and most recently a Santa Rosa plum.
The tangerine and orange trees died. I put them in a spot that had formerly held a giant eucalyptus, and I understand the eucalyptus oils make the soil inhospitable for quite a while, no matter how much you amend. The Meyer lemons are workhorses, producing more than a hundred pounds of fruit each season. The limes, figs and avocado have their good years and bad years. But the plum tree is just starting to come into its own.
Santa Rosa plums are small, reddish-purple and highly fragrant. They're on the sour side - too sour to eat straight, unless you're Emery, my 11-year-old, who thrives on the pucker. But they're great for baking, because they turn everything pink and they have a commanding presence. I put them into this ho-hum bread pudding, added a little dusky aromatic (Chinese five-spice powder), and WOW.
Note: I used brioche in this recipe, left over from the truffled grilled cheese sandwiches from my Trufflepalooza party, but any rich white bread would work: Challah, potato bread, or Hawaiian bread all make excellent bread puddings. I keep the crusts on for a more rustic dessert, but if you prefer to remove the crusts, that's up to you.
Santa Rosa plum bread pudding
- 1 lb Santa Rosa plums (10-12 plums; can substitute other tart plums), diced
- 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1 loaf of brioche, preferably a little stale, cut into cubes
- 10 eggs
- 1 quart whole milk
- 2 cups half-and-half
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup Grand Marnier, Triple Sec or other orange-flavored liqueur
- 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder (an Asian spice mixture; available in gourmet stores or spice shops)
- 3 Tbsp coarse raw sugar
Combine the diced plums with 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a bowl. Let the plum mixture sit at room temperature for 30 minutes; the sugar will draw the juices out of the fruit and create a syrup.
Put the brioche cubes on a baking sheet. Bake the brioche briefly, just to dry it out a little. Let cool.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the rest of the granulated sugar, milk, half-and-half, salt, liqueur, and five-spice powder. Add the brioche cubes and mix well, so all the bread is coated with the egg mixture. Put in the plum mixture with all the syrup that has accumulated and mix again. Let the mixture sit at least half an hour, to let the bread absorb the egg mixture and plum juices.
Spray a large baking dish, or two smaller ones, with cooking spray. Turn the bread mixture into the prepared dish(es) and sprinkle with the coarse raw sugar. Bake about an hour, or until the center of the pudding wiggles slightly when you shake the pan, and the top of the pudding is golden brown. Let cool. Serve at room temperature, with whipped cream if you like.