Pumpkin Bread Pudding for Agent Mulder

There aren't many TV shows that have captured my attention. I was a pretty serious LOST fan for the duration of that program, and I've enjoyed a few others, but no show has intrigued me as much as the X-Files. I think this show is magic. I like the mystery, the creepiness, the bizarre plot lines, and the sarcastic, random humor. Mostly, I love the characters.

Therefore, if I were to make my favorite dessert (also a Thanksgiving dessert) for anyone – real or fictional – it would be Agent Mulder.

Neither Mulder nor Scully spends a lot of time eating on the show. They are too busy doing other things – no time for snacks! Mulder, particularly, is rarely seen eating. I always imagined this was because he was so obsessed with finding just where out there the truth really was, that food became an afterthought. Aside from occasional munching on sunflower seeds, Mulder is fueled by pure obsession with mysteries just outside of his grasp, not carbohydrates and protein.

So, when he does sit down to eat, you can imagine whatever he is eating must be pretty darn good. This is highlighted in one Season 3 episode of the X-Files: Jose Chung's Aliens from Outer Space in which Mulder sits down at a diner bar and orders piece after piece of sweet potato pie from the surly looking chef until he has eaten the whole thing.

I would like to reinvent/rewrite this scene minus the sweet potato pie and surly looking chef, adding instead my Pumpkin Bread Pudding and myself (hopefully looking less surly). I imagine it would play out something like this:

Mulder enters the bar and identifies himself.

Orders piece after piece of Pumpkin Bread Pudding, all the while questioning me about my thoughts on extra-terrestrial life.

He eats the whole bread pudding that way.

As a final question, he points at me and asks if I've "checked everywhere" for alien implants, pays the check and leaves.

Now you might be asking yourself (among other questions about how intact my sanity is) can this pumpkin bread pudding really be that good? Good enough to make Agent Mulder pause in middle of his quest for knowledge and eat an entire serving dish full?

Yes. Yes, it is. I discovered this recipe via the Martha Stewart website. I was looking for something slightly different to serve at Thanksgiving dinner. This hits the nail on the head: it satisfies my need for something pumpkin flavored, but with a completely different texture and spin. And there are a couple of fun variations on the pudding that I do that really give it a kick (read: baking with alcohol).

Here's how it all happens:

First, you actually make the pumpkin challah bread that goes into the pudding (not difficult). As I mentioned, this recipe is from Martha Stewart, and I have not changed a thing about it except that I make 4 small loaves of bread instead of 2 larger ones. I usually only end up using two of the four loaves, and I freeze the other two to eat later or give them away as gifts.

What You Need:

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, (1 1/2 packages)

1 cup warm water (100 degrees to 110 degrees)

3/4 cup egg yolks, (11 to 12 large eggs), plus 1 large egg yolk for glaze

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for bowl

1/4 cup honey

One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon allspice

8 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

What To Do:

Proof the yeast: Place 1/2 cup warm water in a small bowl, and sprinkle yeast over it. Stir to combine, and let sit until mixture becomes foamy, about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine egg yolks with remaining 1/2 cup warm water. In a medium bowl, combine salt, canola oil, honey, pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Replace paddle attachment with dough-hook attachment, and add the pumpkin mixture to the mixer bowl; combine. Add the yeast mixture, stirring until combined.

Slowly add flour, 1 cup at a time, until all the flour is incorporated into dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, punch down the dough, and then form it into two 8-inch loaves. Place the loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, heat the oven to 350ΒΊ. Mix remaining egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the loaves with the egg glaze, and bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, and serve.

And now for the pudding part. I have made a few notes in italics where I have made changes to the recipe.

What You Need:

3/4 cup golden raisins

4 large whole eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups milk

2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for dish

2 teaspoons light-brown sugar

5 to 6 cups day-old Pumpkin Challah, cubed

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

5 large egg yolks

1/4 cup dark rum, or more to taste

What To Do:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place raisins in a small bowl, and cover with hot water

(I soak the raisins in RUM. Whisky works too)

. Let soak until plump. Drain, and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together 4 whole eggs, sugar, and salt. Whisk in 2 1/2 cups milk and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

(I add in a little rum or whisky to this mixture - about 3 Tablespoons).

Butter a 9-inch, 1 1/2-quart ceramic baking dish with sides that are at least 1 1/2 inches high. Sprinkle bottom of dish with brown sugar; arrange half the challah cubes in a layer on top. Sprinkle with half the reserved raisins. Repeat with remaining challah and raisins.

Pour the milk-and-egg mixture over the bread, making sure to soak every piece. Transfer baking dish to the oven, and bake until the custard sets and the bread pudding becomes a rich, golden color, 50 to 60 minutes. If bread becomes too brown before filling is set, loosely cover top of pudding with aluminum foil. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

(I actually do not always make the rum sauce, as I spike the actual pudding with rum. Sometimes, I just dust with confectioner's sugar and serve with ice cream).

Meanwhile, prepare the rum sauce: Combine remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, the heavy cream, and confectioners' sugar in a saucepan; place over medium heat, and heat just until bubbles form around the edges. Remove from heat.

Prepare an ice-water bath, and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with remaining teaspoon vanilla. Slowly beat 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into yolks, then slowly whisk yolk mixture back into saucepan with remaining milk mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 1 minute.

Strain the mixture into a bowl set in the ice-water bath. Stir in rum and remaining 2 tablespoons butter; stir until combined. Let stand until mixture is chilled. Serve bread pudding warm or at room temperature, with the rum sauce on the side.

Finito! I really must thank Martha for this recipe. It's a serious winner. Elana recommended, Agent Mulder approved.

* If anyone wants me to completely geek out and tell the story about the time I met Chris Carter (creator of the X-Files), just let me know. I am more than happy to do so...

** All images are property of 20th Century Fox, and I don't mean to suggest that they are mine by including them in this post. It's just funny.

*** If you'd like to check out the original Martha Stewart recipes, you can click

here

and

here

.