Winter Dinner Add-Ons: Caramel Apple Bread Pudding and Butternut Squash Gratin

While I love cooking classes, I love free stuff with a class even more!  My preference is to browse the Sur la Table class schedule to find upcoming giveaways and, of course, make sure I like the planned menu.  The menu for the Winter Classics class was french onion soup, braised chicken with mushrooms and red wine, butternut squash gratin with ricotta and hazelnuts, and apple bread pudding with salted caramel sauce.  All four are winners in my book, so I was even happier to learn that we would receive a set of two Le Creuset Mini Cocottes as a bonus!  I opted for a sunny yellow pair – a perfect pop of color on a dinner table.  More importantly, I want to share with you my two favorite recipes from the night: the bread pudding and the gratin.  Yum!

Apple Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce                       

(8 servings)

Ingredients
6 large eggs
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla paste
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp apple brandy (e.g. Calvados)
1 loaf bread (1 pound – suggest white or challah) cut into 3/4-1 inch cubes
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

3 large green apples (e.g. Granny Smith) peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Salted Caramel Sauce
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
2 Tbsp water
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 Tbsp sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and position the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
2. Generously butter 8 ramekins or Le Creuset Mini Cocottes (or a 9×5 inch baking pan with about 3 inch sides)
3. In a large bowl, whisk to combine eggs, maple syrup, sugar, vanilla, and salt.
4. Add the milk, cream, and brandy and whisk until well combined.
5. Using a silicone spatula, stir in the bread cubes and press down until submerged into the custard
6. To prepare the apples: in a medium bowl, toss the apple slices with the cinnamon and sugar until they are evenly coated
7. Place butter into a nonstick skillet and place on the stove over moderate heat
8. When the butter has melted, swirl the pan to coat it with the melted butter and increase the stove temperature to high
9. Add the apple slices and cook, without stirring, until tender, about 2 minutes.  Gently toss the apples and cook until the apples are golden brown and cooked through yet hold their shape, approximately 5 minutes.
10. To assemble the pudding: Mix half the apple mixture into the custard mixture.  Divide the bread mixture evenly into the ramekins then arrange the remaining apple slices decoratively on top.  Spoon any remaining skillet juices over the apple slices
11. Place the ramekins onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake until puffed and an instant read thermometer reads 170 to 180 degrees, about 20-25 minutes.
12. To make the caramel sauce: While the pudding is cooking, in a medium saucepan combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons of water and place on the stove over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Bring the saucepan to a boil, swirling the pan occasionally, and cook until the mixture turns a deep amber color (about 8 minutes).  Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the cream slowly, in stages.  Cook over medium heat and stir in the butter and salt.

Butternut Squash Gratin with Ricotta and Hazelnuts 

(4 servings)
Ingredients

1/4 cup vegetable broth, low sodium
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 tsp minced thyme
2 tsp lemon zest
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and thinly sliced about 1/8″ thick
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup fresh ricotta
1/3 cup toasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and position an oven rack in the center
2. In a small saucepan, combine the broth, cream, and bay leaf and place on the stove over a moderate heat to simmer
3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside for the flavors to infuse
4. Place a medium skillet on the stove over medium heat and add the oil.  When shimmering, add the onions and cook, stirring often until tender, about 8 minutes.
5. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute
6. Stir in the thyme, lemon zest, and the cream mixture – remove the bay leaf and throw away!!
7. Coat a 11 x 17 inch (2 quart) gratin dish with butter and spread half the butternut squash onto the bottom of the dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dot with the cheese.
8. Pour half the onion cream mixture over the squash and smooth over with a silicone spatula.
9. Repeat layering the squash, cheese, and cream mixture
10. Bake in the oven until the squash is tender, approximately 25 minutes.
11. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts

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