I’ve focused this month on recipes for the slow cooker, which is such a perfect way to prepare comforting winter dishes. My use of the slow cooker is generally for main dishes, soups or stews, or jam making occasionally, but over the years I have branched out. This recipe is the evolution of a very basic, simple slow cooker bread pudding that I made once for a special meal for friends. I wanted to make bread pudding, as it was a favorite of one guest, I had all the ingredients ready, but in the thick of the prep, I realized I wasn’t going to have the oven space. I remembered seeing a bread pudding recipe in a slow cooker cookbook and turned to that and it was the perfect solution. So over the years, I’ve altered and added to the basic idea to create numerous versions. I settled on sharing this version because it remains simple but still has flair. It’s remarkable how so few ingredients and so little effort can produce such a rich and complex dish. That’s true of bread pudding in general, but the slow cooker makes it even easier.
Canned dulce de leche adds so much to this recipe – little pockets of oozing caramel nestled in the soft bread. I find canned dulce de leche in the Hispanic section of most supermarkets. The dried cherries are the perfect tart accompaniment to the sweetness, but originally were the result of a pantry cleanout. Use any dried fruit you like – cranberries, blueberries, sliced apricots, chopped dates. A scoop of ice cream would not go amiss. I find this sweet, but not cloying and could absolutely be served for brunch.
Slow Cooker Dulce de Leche Bread Pudding with Cherries
1 (16-ounce) loaf of Italian bread
¾ cup dried cherries
4 large eggs
½ cup packed light brown sugar
3 cups half and half
1 (13.4 ounce) can dulce de leche
- Spray the crock of a 6 – 8 quart slow cooker with cooking spray.
- Cut the Italian bread into 1-inch chunks and place in the slow cooker. Add the cherries and toss to combine.
- Whisk the eggs in a large bowl, then add the sugar and half and half and whisk to combine. Add ¾ cup of the dulce de leche and whisk and stir to break it up as much as possible. Thick dulce de leche from the can will not completely dissolve, that’s ok, you just don’t want it in a large lump. Pour the egg mixture over the bread in the slow cooker and stir gently with a spatula, distributing the bread, cherries and dulce de leche. Cover the crock and cook on low for 2 ½ hours. The bread pudding should be nicely set. Use a spoon to dollop the remaining dulce de leche from the can over the top of the pudding, spreading it out gently, the replace the cover and cook for a further 15 – 20 minutes until firm and the dulce de leche is melty. Serve immediately.