My family adores this rich and decadent Challah Bread Pudding with Kahlua Cream Sauce. It was also the favorite recipe of a dear friend who I miss very much. Every time I make it I think of her.
Those who read my blog regularly probably noticed an uncharacteristic silence lately. I haven’t posted a new recipe for a few weeks now. I’ve been receiving emails and messages from many of you wondering where I’ve gone.
First of all, I want to thank you for all your kind words. I’m doing fine. I just needed to hit pause for a few weeks. Some pretty major shifts have been happening around me, forks in the road that have made me step back and reevaluate my priorities. The blog had started feeling like an obligation, a chore. That was never my intention.
I always wanted my recipes and posts to reflect my passion for life. The idea was to share positive energy and my love for cooking. Suddenly I felt myself dreading it all—the writing, the photography, the comment moderation, the endless sharing on social media—all of the things that professional bloggers do to keep their audiences engaged and growing. It began to feel like a business, which is not what I envisioned in the beginning. I always wanted this to be a cozy cooking community, a place where food lovers could share their thoughts and learn from each other. Instead, I was fielding endless media requests and sponsored post opportunities and advertising requests. I needed a chance to disconnect and breathe.
Then I lost a close friend, and the disconnection turned to introspection. I’m writing this post from a vacation condo in Hawaii, in the very same complex where I started my blog on January 1, 2010. Life has a funny way of coming full circle. The day I started my blog, I was filled with excitement and a bit of fear. Food blogging was still somewhat new, and I truly had no idea what I was doing. But I overcame my nerves and pressed publish, never realizing what a strange, crazy, amazing journey this website would take me on.
Tori and Beth at Sammy’s Roumanian in 2010
A few weeks after I started my blog, my husband and I sat down with our good friend Beth Trachtenberg. We ate a meal together at Sammy’s Roumanian in New York City. Beth expressed to me how much she admired my blog. She was an astute and tenacious businesswoman, someone I greatly admired. I was excited when she told me that she believed I had a future as an important voice in the food world. It was gratifying to know that this woman, a successful producer and one of the smartest people I knew, believed in me.
Over the next few years Beth took on the role of mentor, manager, friend and confidant. She helped me grow the blog from a small corner of the web into one of the top food blogs in the country. But Beth was more than a business associate; she held a very special place in my heart. She helped my husband launch his passion project, a musical that he’d wanted to produce since childhood. She was there when I married the love of my life. She became part of our family. Like true family we experienced ups and downs, but we never lost that deep feeling of connection. She was a rare soul.
Beth speaking at my wedding reception in 2011
It’s difficult to imagine navigating the journey of my life without Beth. I’m not going to go into her illness here, because she never wanted to be viewed as a victim. She was incredibly strong to the very end, and I don’t believe she wanted us to grieve. Instead, I think she would prefer for us to remember her as she was in life… a two-time Jeopardy champion, brilliant and vital and warm and loving, smiling and often laughing hysterically. She was always eating something naughty and delicious yet never seemed to gain a pound. She loved Israel passionately. She adored sunbathing and traveling and binge watching great TV shows. She drank Coke instead of wine and had friends in every city. There will never be another like Beth.
In Hawaii remembering Beth
I had already decided to take a break from blogging when I heard the news that Beth had passed away. Five years after that fateful lunch at Sammy’s Roumanian, I found myself on vacation in Hawaii in the very same spot where this blog began. I took this past week by the water to recharge and connect with my family. I slept a lot and didn’t spend much time on my phone or laptop. More than anything else, I took time to mourn my dear friend Beth. It’s very hard to imagine a world without her.
Beth and Tori, 2010
I’ll be back with new recipes soon. Meanwhile, I wanted to re-share Beth’s favorite recipe from my collection. Beth enjoyed cooking and she never counted calories… just one of the many ways she lived life to the fullest. Whenever she came out for a visit she always asked me to make my “famous” Challah Bread Pudding. In loving memory of Beth I’m posting it just the way she liked it, topped with warm Kahlua cream sauce.
Note: You may see some comments below that date all the way back to 2010. That’s because this is an update of an older post; the recipe has not changed, but I have rephotographed it in honor of my friend Beth.
Challah Bread Pudding Ingredients
- 1 loaf plain (unseeded) challah bread day old is okay
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 quart half and half
- 6 large eggs beaten
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups raisins and/or chocolate chips optional
Kahlua Cream Sauce Ingredients
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- Dash of salt
- 1 tbsp Kahlua liqueur
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice the challah bread into 1-inch cubes. You’ll need about 12 cups of loosely packed cubes. If you don’t have enough challah on hand, you can mix in any kind of light-colored bread to make up the difference (white, buttermilk, Hawaiian). Spread into a single layer on two cookie sheets, place in oven, and lightly toast the cubes for 7-8 minutes until they are dry and just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium. Toast the chopped walnut pieces, stirring constantly, until they begin the lighter colored parts of the walnut flesh begin to brown. Remove from heat.
- In a very large mixing bowl, combine half and half, beaten eggs, sugar, brown sugar, melted butter, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and salt. Use an electric mixer or immersion blender to thoroughly blend all ingredients.
- Pour the toasted challah cubes, chopped walnuts, and raisins into the liquid mixture. Stir all ingredients together for a couple of minutes until the bread cubes have soaked up most of the liquid. You may have to lightly mash some of the bread cubes down to make sure they’re fully immersed in liquid.
- Generously grease a 9×13 baking dish or pan. Pour the bread pudding mixture into the dish, being sure to scrape any excess liquid from the bowl. Cover tightly with foil.Bake pudding at 350 degrees F for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours. Take off the foil after 1 hour to let the top brown.
- The pudding is done when the top is brown and springy to the touch. The center of the pudding should be baked through, not liquid. Serve warm topped with Kahlua Cream Sauce.
- To make the Kahlua Cream Sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add heavy whipping cream to the pan, whisking to blend with the butter.
- Add egg, sugar, flour, nutmeg and salt to the pan. Whisk continuously for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Whisk in Kahlua and vanilla.
- Serve warm atop freshly baked bread pudding.