pear and dulce de leche bread pudding • accepting praise

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Do you know how to take a compliment?

When someone comments on their fascination with your choice of wardrobe for the evening, how do you feel? Most of the time I just think to myself, “it’s just clothes.” I know fashion gurus might want to bite my head off for having such a horrific thought.

When someone expresses their deep infatuation with the way you have decorated your apartment what do you do? You may simply say a polite “thank you”, right? Or perhaps not.

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What about when a close friend or relative comments on their great satisfaction with a dessert you have made? What do you do then? Do you take the compliment and awkwardly say a quiet “thank you” while clenching your top and bottom teeth together?

That’s what I do.

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Sometimes I don’t know how to accept a compliment when it comes to a dessert…or to anything. I might have to play it off the best I can and pretend that I am so grateful to hear praise for a simple (or not so simple) accomplishment, which I definitely am.  I do enjoy hearing praise, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate hearing praise and compliments to the maximum actually, but somehow my body has an interesting reaction to praise. That was kind of apparent when I served this pear & dulce de leche bread pudding to my family just a few days ago.

I served my mom, sister, aunt, and cousin each a piece of this dessert I had written the recipe for a few days earlier. As they each took a bite, each one started to say positive comments about it. And there I was sitting in my chair, nibbling on the bread pudding quietly while hearing the praise, smiling ungracefully and not saying a word while listening…looking and feeling as stiff as a board.

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“I’m glad you find it to be tasty,” was my plain and mechanical reply to the compliments. I guess my family sensed my strange and hesitant reaction as well as my closed body language, because my cousin was quick to exclaim, “Vane, we are telling you that this is way good!”

I eventually fully accepted their compliments without further hesitation, especially when they all asked for seconds and some for thirds!

Well, I hope you find this pear and dulce de leche bread pudding to be tasty too!

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Ingredients for Dulce de Leche:

1 can of condensed milk (a small can that weights about 397 g)

Recipe for Dulce de Leche:

1. Remove the label from the can.

2. Place the can of condensed can in a pot. Fill the pot with enough water so that it comes up to about 1″ from the top of the can. It will be necessary to add more water during the cooking process so that the water never goes below that level.

3. Place pot on stove and and cook on medium-high until water comes to a simmer. Continue to cook on on low-medium heat for about 3.5 hours.

(Note: Some recipes recommend that you pierce two holes in the can with a can opener on opposite sides so that there is less danger of the can exploding while it simmers. Every time I have made dulce de leche, I haven’t pierced any holes and no explosions have occurred. Choose whichever method you prefer–holes or no holes if you’re feeling risky). 

Ingredients for Bread Pudding:

1 C walnuts

2 T dark brown sugar

about 4 pears (2 C of diced pears & about 2 C of thinly sliced pears or about 27 thin pear slices)

7 C stale rustic bread, cubed and crusts trimmed

3.5 C milk

1 vanilla bean

5 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 1/4 C dulce  de leche (3/4 C used in custard and 1/2 C used for bread pudding topping)

Recipe for Bread Pudding:

1. Preheat over to 325 F and toast walnuts so that they become toasted all through the center, about 10 minutes. Finely chop toasted walnuts and set them aside for later use.

2. Grease the bottom and sides of an 11″ x 7″ rectangular baking pan with butter. Sprinkle dark brown sugar all over the bottom of the pan. Arrange pear slices over the dark brown sugar.

3. Arrange bread pieces into pan. Combine toasted walnuts and 2 C of diced pears with bread. Toss bread, walnuts, and diced pears gently to combine. Set pan aside.

4. Pour milk into a pot. Cut vanilla bean in half from top to bottom and scrape seeds. Drop the seeds and pod into the pot and bring milk to a simmer. Turn off heat when milk comes to a simmer and cover pot. Infuse milk with the vanilla for about 15 minutes. Discard pod when infusion time is over.

5. Combine eggs, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk to break up the eggs and combine all ingredients. Pour milk slowly over the eggs while whisking continuously to create a custard.

6. Add 3/4 C of dulce de leche to the custard and combine well with a hand blender.

7. Pour custard over bread without covering the tips of the slices of bread and wait for bread to absorb more of the custard. Repeat pouring until bread is completely saturated and it doesn’t seem to absorb anymore custard. Allow bread to rest for about 15 minutes until bread absorbs the custard. Do not pour all of the custard from the bowl at this point.

8. Pour the remaining of the custard over the bread.

9. Use the remaining 1/2 C dulce de leche and drop small amounts of it evenly over the top of the bread pudding.

10. Bake at 300 F about 1–1.5 hours, until a toothpick that has been inserted in the bread pudding comes out clean.

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