Whipping up a batch of bread pudding doesn’t get easier than this! The slow cooker creates a smooth and custardy texture. This version is rich with bananas, warm spices, and caramel sauce for a bread pudding twist on the famous New Orleans dessert: Bananas Foster!
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.