In the mood for some sweet and gooey bread pudding? It’s the ultimate comfort food, often enjoyed when dining out as a way to end a meal.
I have good news! Bread pudding, usually baked in the oven, is a cinch to make at home using a slow cooker. This version uses the decadent dessert, Bananas Foster, as inspiration. Banana puree, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar flavor the bread pudding, and then I finish it with a drizzle of homemade caramel sauce.
Making caramel sauce from scratch is so simple. You’ll want to generously drizzle it on top of the pudding (and everything else).
Serve this Banana Bread Pudding with a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream that slowly melts on top of this warm dessert, and each indulgent spoonful is pure bliss.
WHAT IS BREAD PUDDING?
Bread pudding is a combination of bread, custard, and spices. It can be sweet or savory, but I like it sweet.
Leftover or stale bread is used as the base of bread pudding to soak up the creamy custard. It transforms bland loaves into a rich, sweet, and spiced dessert.
This warm dessert has a velvety texture and is typically baked to create a souffle-like result in a large casserole pan or individual ramekins. I simplified it for this version by using my slow cooker.
HOW DO YOU MAKE BREAD PUDDING IN THE SLOW COOKER?
When making banana bread pudding in the slow cooker, I start by toasting the bread cubes in the oven before adding them to the slow cooker insert.
The process only takes about 30 minutes. Toasting the cubed bread in the oven removes some of the excess moisture, which allows more of the sweet custard to be absorbed. This results in a creamy, rather than mushy, texture for the finished product.
The custard is a combination of eggs, half-and-half, granulated and brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. I add in a cup of ripe, mashed bananas; it adds a wonderful fruity flavor to the pudding.
The bread and custard are then soaked for at least an hour before cooking. The bread pudding can be cooked at either low or high setting, until the center puffs up and reaches about 175ºF.
WHAT IS THE BEST BREAD FOR BREAD PUDDING?
I recommend using brioche for bread pudding. The mixture of flour with eggs, butter, and sugar, provides a rich taste and dense crumb structure. When it absorbs the custard and is then cooked, the texture is smooth with a nice chew that doesn’t fall apart.
A brioche loaf or burger buns work great. Challah is a fabulous substitute; both are easy to find at most grocery stores. I usually purchase my bread from Trader Joe’s for this recipe.
DO YOU NEED TO REFRIGERATE BREAD PUDDING?
Keep the ceramic slow cooker insert in the refrigerator while the bread soaks in the custard.
When you’re ready to cook the pudding, take the insert out of the refrigerator, and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before heating.
Once cooked, cool any leftovers to room temperature, then store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
TIPS FOR GREAT CARAMEL SAUCE
One of my favorite easy-to-whip-up sauces is caramel. It only takes about 15 minutes to make! The rich toffee flavor elevates the sweetness of the bananas and spices in this bread pudding. I even add a little more cinnamon and salt toward the end to make this caramel sauce next-level delicious!
Tips for caramel-making success:
- Use a larger pot than you think you’ll need. The sugar expands and bubbles when you add the heavy cream. Make sure your pot has room for expansion.
- Do not step away from the stove while making caramel. It can go from caramel colored to burnt and bitter very quickly.
- Carefully whisk in heavy cream and butter to finish the sauce, and it’s ready to go.
- Your caramel will thicken as it cools down.
HOW TO ADAPT THIS RECIPE
I recently had my first table-side Bananas Foster flambé at the famous Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans, and this bread pudding helps to satisfy that craving!
If you want to try some variations to your bread pudding, I’ve offered some adaptations below.
Easy ways to switch up this banana bread recipe:
- Bananas can be omitted for a more classic bread pudding flavor.
- Substitute one cup of applesauce or pumpkin puree to create harvest flavors.
- Add whole fruit like blueberries, diced peaches, or raspberries.
- Add dark chocolate chips to create a melty sauce swirled in the pudding.
- Mix in chopped nuts like pecans, walnuts, or almonds.
PERFECT FOR A PARTY!
It’s a perfect dinner party dessert. It takes 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours on high for this to cook.
Start cooking this about 90 minutes before you begin to prepare for dinner. The bread pudding will cook while you’re enjoying a long leisurely dinner with friends. When you’re about to wrap up your meal, dessert will be hot and ready!
Be aware: The sweet fragrance fills your home and will make it difficult for guests to resist digging in right away!
MAKE-AHEAD TIPS FOR BREAD PUDDING
This recipe is great for making ahead of time!
Make the caramel sauce up to one week in advance. Cool it to room temperature before storing it in an airtight jar or container in your refrigerator. Reheat it in a microwave safe bowl in 15-second intervals, stirring in between.
The bread can be soaked up to 24 hours before cooking, so you can do all of the prep work the day before, and then slow cook it when you’re ready.
Leftovers are also delicious; just reheat the slices or scoops of bread pudding in the microwave for one to two minutes until warmed through.
LOOKING FOR MORE GREAT RECIPES?
Slow Cooker Banana Bread Pudding Recipe
For the bread pudding:
- 16-ounce French brioche loaf, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (12 cups)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (softened)
- 8 large eggs
- 4 cups half-and-half
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (100g) dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (bourbon vanilla recommended)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
For the caramel sauce (Makes about 1 cup)
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Get ready: Set the oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 300ºF for toasting the bread. Grease the inside of a 6-quart slow cooker with the softened butter.
2 Toast the bread: Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a large sheet pan or two smaller pans. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through toasting. The bread should be lightly golden, dry, and crisp. Remove the bread cubes from the oven and let them cool for 10 minutes.
Once cool, transfer toasted bread to the slow cooker and arrange in an even layer.
3 Make the custard: In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the half-and-half, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and mashed bananas to the bowl with the eggs, and whisk to combine.
4 Add the custard to the bread cubes: Pour the custard mixture over bread. Press the bread into the liquid to submerge. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 60 minutes, or up to 24 hours.
5 Bring the casserole to room temperature: Remove the casserole from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
6 Cook casserole: Place the slow cooker insert into the slow cooker base, cover it with a lid, and cook it on the high setting for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours, or on the low setting for 4 to 5 hours.
The casserole is ready when the custard is set in the center and puffy; it should not be runny or jiggle. It will shrink slightly once the heat is turned off. The center of the casserole should be above 175ºF when tested with a thermometer.
7 Make the caramel sauce: In a medium high-sided saucepan add the sugar and water. Set the pan over medium-low heat and let the sugar dissolve without stirring. This should take about 3 to 5 minutes.
When it’s ready, the granules will be dissolved, and it will look just like gently bubbling clear water. (If you see sugar granules on the sides of the pan. Dip a pastry brush into a cup of tap water, and “paint” the inside of the pan with the wet brush to wash away any undissolved sugar.)
Once the sugar has dissolved completely, increase the heat to high and bring sugar to a low boil. Stir with a whisk until a deep amber color is formed and the temperature reads between 320ºF to 340ºF on a candy thermometer. This should take about 5 to 7 minutes. If your sugar boils rapidly, reduce the heat to medium high.
Remove the caramel from the heat.
Slowly and carefully whisk in 1/3 of the heavy cream in a thin stream. The caramel will bubble as the cream is added; allow it to subside before adding the rest of the cream. Whisk in the butter, cinnamon, and salt until smooth.
Let the sauce cool at room temperature for about 10 minutes before using, it will thicken as it cools, but still be pourable. (You can store the sauce in an airtight container for up to one week in the refrigerator.)
8 To serve: Allow the casserole to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
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