Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding: Dessert or Breakfast?

Everyone has their rituals for special days — whether they involve huge family gatherings, or quiet time scheduled for two, food has a tendency to permeate them all.  I know.  Big surprise.  With respect to Thanksgiving, my mother always insisted that we eat early — 1pm.  I guess her mother did, so the tradition was passed along, allowing for the even more important tradition of getting all the leftovers out at about 7pm to begin the eating frenzy again.  You know, just in case someone didn't have turkey coming out their ears yet.

When I met my husband, my family's early eating time meant that we could eat with them — (a dinner I made…) and then like complete lunatics the loving young people we were, head over to his family's house to eat again, usually at about 6pm.  We could barely move when we were finished, our midsections stretched beyond anything we'd imagined before, and swearing we wouldn't eat turkey for an entire year.  Funny how that works, isn't it? 

Another thing I inherited was the notion of a holiday breakfast — but it wasn't from my family.

I was used to eating at midday, so the idea of a big breakfast not only made me want to crawl under a table to get away from even thinking of eating more food on such a calorie laden day, but cringe at the thought of trying to put a special breakfast on the table while I was in the middle of trying to pull off Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  When my husband told me not to worry, that he'd make breakfast, I wasn't soothed by his cheerful smile or the image of two of us doing completely different things in such a small space on such a busy day.

We've all aged, and in the years we've been married, we've established our own traditions.  A holiday breakfast seems to have stuck — and it works, but only when I'm not also making the bulk of the holiday dinner and we're not eating until 7pm.  Plus, believe it or not, my husband is the turkey dude now.  Go figure.  That leaves me time to think of other things — like breakfast.

Hence, the adoption of a recipe I found years ago when I wanted something I could make the night before, pop in the fridge, and then into the oven the next morning:  Fat Momma's French Toast.  Since that time, I've altered the recipe, of course, and it's a bit different each time I make it.  But I tried something truly different a few days ago, and we enjoyed "breakfast" for dinner, another thing we did about once a week when I was growing up.

Funny, though.  As we mulled over the first bites of my latest, we knew it was more of a dessert — no longer French toast.  And with the day old pumpkin braid I had left over from the dinner rolls I made, my Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding was born.

Oh, my goodness.  If this is the epitome of a holiday breakfast, then sign me up and I'll forget the dinner.  It's truly amazing.  IMG_6886

Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding

1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
1 + 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
2 T maple syrup
1 c. whole pecans
l loaf day old pumpkin bread
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 whole milk
3 lg. eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
cinnamon to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In an 8×8 baking pan pour the melted butter.  Add 1 c. of the brown sugar, sprinkle on the pecans, and drizzle on the maple syrup. 


Slice the bread into approximately 20 pieces and set 10 of them on top of the sugar pecan layer.  Spread the cream cheese liberally over the bread.  Sprinkle 1/4c. of the additional brown sugar over then sprinkle with some cinnamon.  Add the remaining pieces of bread and press down firmly to settle it in the pan.


In a bowl, mix the milk, eggs, and vanilla.  Slowly pour over the bread layers making sure all are completely moist.  Place a piece of plastic wrap over the pan and gently press down on the layers.  Remove plastic and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 c. of brown sugar over, then another dusting of cinnamon.  (If you plan to make this dish ahead, then cover tightly and place in the fridge over night.)


Cover with foil and bake in the center of the oven for about 45-50 minutes or until custard is set.  Remove foil and return to oven for 5-10 minutes to brown the top a bit.  Let sit for a few minutes after removing from the oven, then run a knife around the edge.  Place a serving platter over the top and invert.  It will remind you of sticky buns!


Serve with a drizzle of heavy cream.



  • It's worth checking the original recipe in the link above.  It makes a larger quantity if you need it.
  • The texture of the bread is important.  Day old bread is perfect.  If you get that grocery store spongy white "French" bread and then soak it overnight, I think the result is far too gooey, but my husband likes it, so what do I know.  He loved the newest version.
  • The dryer and more dense the bread, the more it soaks up the milk & eggs.  I have added up to 1/2 c. more milk and have also used part half-n-half which is luxurious.  The liquid doesn't have to cover the bread.
  • If you want to save some bucks (who doesn't?) then buy chopped pecans.
  • Use light or dark brown sugar.
  • Make only one layer of bread with thicker pieces, but invert the cheese into the sugar/pecan mixture.  This is worth trying once before you start playing with the recipe like I do.
  • Use pumpkin pie spices instead of just
  • Add some herbs…a little bit goes a long way.
  • If you're worried about flipping a pan with hot sugar in it, I don't blame you.  It's not too hard to use a spatula to squeeze a piece out and then flip that — or don't flip.  But the brown sugar and pecans are amazing when they're on top.
  • We could actually taste more of a pumpkin flavor in this than in the bread by itself.  Not a strong one, however.  And I still wonder if we would have tasted even that much of one if I hadn't know what kind of bread was in it.  You followed that, right?  I do believe the amazing texture of the bread is what made this recipe so remarkable.  Very brioche like.