As popular as PB&J is around the house-- with Desi who simply will not start his day without it and with Jay who, after some initial hesitation adopting it when he first came to us, has grown to love it -- I wanted to try out a version of a vegan PB&J Bread Pudding for breakfast this past Sunday. But I wanted it to be an adult, sophisticated version of a peanut butter and jelly bread pudding. And this version, guys, is as close to perfection as you can get.
The jelly here is a fruit compote made of tasty, healthy berries, and the peanut butter is a creamy concoction that gets poured on and seeps into every nook and cranny, making this pudding gooey and warm and delicious beyond words. The custard that smothers it all is flavored with vanilla and so insanely good that you might have a hard time stopping yourself from licking the spoon...again and again. Not that you should.
I was first thinking of making this with a vegan brioche, but then I decided to take the healthier way and use whole-wheat bread instead. I was happy I did, because the bread, once it has soaked in all the moisture, is so soft that using white bread wouldn't really have made a huge difference. Try to make sure that the bread is light and airy, not dense, because you want it to be porous enough to absorb all of the goodness you pour on it.
As the pudding baked in the oven, the wonderful fragrance brought Desi and Jay running down the stairs, sniffing the air. They tucked through it at lightning speed, even Jay whose reception of new foods is, at best, tepid. When it was over, he sat down with the baking dish and licked it clean.
Something tells me I'll be getting requests to make this PB&J Bread Pudding again and again.
Vegan PB&J Bread Pudding
- 9 slices whole wheat bread (or other wholegrain bread or gluten-free bread)
- 1 cup frozen berries (use one kind or a mix, like I did. Mine had raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries)
- 4 tbsp maple syrup
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ½ cup peanut butter
- 1¾ cup nondairy milk
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract (or a vanilla bean. Split the bean through the middle and carefully, with the tip of a knife, scrape out all the seeds)
- Vegan butter (for buttering bread)
- 1 cup fresh berries sliced if using strawberries
- Blend peanut butter with ¾ cup of the milk and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Lightly butter all the slices of bread
- Make the fruit compote by placing the berries, lemon zest and 2 tbsp of maple syrup in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and continue to cook over medium-low heat until the compote has thickened to a spreadable consistency and doesn't look watery. Set aside.
- Make the custard by placing the nondairy milk in a saucepan with the vanilla and the cornstarch. Whisk them together really well so there are no lumps, then turn on the heat to medium-low. Stir frequently with a whisk and turn off as soon as the mixture starts to boil and thickens. Stir in the remaining 2 tbsp maple syrup.
- I used a baking pan that measured 8 X 6 inches and was about 4 inches deep to make this pudding. If your baking dish is a slightly different size, cut your bread to make it fit.
- Spray the baking dish with some oil. Place one layer of bread at the bottom of the dish, then spread on the berry compote.
- Add one more layer of bread, and pour on the peanut butter mixture. Make sure it coats the bread evenly.
- Add the last layer of bread, and then pour on the vanilla custard. Wait about 10-15 minutes for the custard to seep into the pudding.
- Place the baking dish in the oven and bake 20 minutes.
- Remove the pudding from the oven, scatter on the fresh berries, return to the oven, and bake for another five minutes.
- Remove from the oven and serve hot.