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Apple-cranberry Bread Puddings With Rosemary Gelato and Cider-Calvados Reduction

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I don't know about you, but I can never resist the smell of bread pudding baking in the oven. It's one of those things that can drive you a little mad -- and make you want to dig in before it's cooled down enough to eat.

Today's recipe is an all-time favorite. The cranberries add a bit of tartness to the sweet apples, while the Calvados makes the pudding a grown-up affair.

Although this dessert will taste perfectly delicious with vanilla ice cream, the rosemary gelato truly transforms it into a festival of flavor. And the last touch -- the apple cider reduction -- intensifies the apple flavors and brings extra moistness to the puddings.

For a sophisticated touch, serve this dessert in individual portions, as shown above. But if that feels too daunting, you can also bake your bread pudding in a single dish and serve it family style.

Either way, I promise, everyone will be scraping their plates and licking their spoons!

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Apple-Cranberry Bread Puddings with Rosemary Gelato and Cider-Calvados Reduction

serves 8
active time: 40 min

For the apple mixture
1 1/4 lbs (565 g) Jonagold, Empire or McIntosh apples (3 large) - peeled, cored and cut in 1/2" pieces
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup fresh (or frozen) cranberries - coarsely chopped (use food processor)
1/4 cup organic sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (use microplane grater)
1/4 cup Calvados (or Brandy)
6 oz (170 g) brioche or Challah bread - cut in 1/2" cubes

For the custard
3 extra large eggs - lightly beaten
1 extra large egg yolk
1/4 cup organic sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the reduction
2 cups apple cider
1/3 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup Calvados (or Brandy)

1 recipe Rosemary Gelato with Crème Fraîche (or vanilla ice cream)
8 half-cup-capacity ramequins (or 1 medium ceramic baking dish) - buttered and floured

Preheat oven to 350°F (180ºC).
Step 1: Place the apple pieces in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice. Add the cranberries, sugar, orange zest and Calvados and toss well. Add the brioche or Challah cubes, toss again and set aside.

Step 2: To make the custard - In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, cream, milk and cinnamon until well blended.

Step 3: Pour the custard into the apple mixture and toss. Let stand for 5 minutes so that the bread soaks up some of the liquids. Spoon the mixture into the prepared ramequins (or prepared baking dish) up to 1/4" from rim. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until the bread puddings are golden-brown and bubbly.

Step 4: To make the reduction - Place the apple cider and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high to medium and fast-simmer, uncovered, until the liquid has almost completely evaporated and the syrup looks foamy, about 20 to 25 minutes. Within a few seconds, the foam will become two shades darker (be careful not to burn the syrup at this stage). Immediately add the Calvados and continue simmering for 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Step 5: When the bread puddings are warm, but not hot, un-mold them. Then place each pudding in the center of a dessert plate, top-side-up. Top each pudding with a small scoop of rosemary gelato or vanilla ice cream, drizzle with the reduction and serve. Alternatively, if the bread pudding was made in a single baking dish, spoon the pudding in dessert bowls, scoop gelato or ice cream on the side, drizzle with the reduction and serve.

Cook's note: The bread puddings can be made up to 2 days ahead. To serve, re-heat at 350°F (180ºC) for 5 to 8 minutes. They will lose their flavor if refrigerated for a longer time. Serve warm.

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Here's another delicious dessert with apples and Calvados: Apple-pear crisp with macadamia crumb and Calvados chantilly.