I ended 2008 with a festive dessert and decided to to start this new year off with a subtly sweet one that brings together some of my favorite things--tsoureki and pudding.
My own Vassilopita (the traditional New Year's cake made by Greek families) follows the tradition of my Giagia's orange and cognac scented cake but many Greeks make a sweet bread-like version in the form of, what's known in Greek as, tsoureki. One of my aunts gifted us with one such tsoureki inspired Vassilopita as we hosted a warm family dinner New Year's day. It was an extra-large Vassilopita that perfectly accomodated the 25 slices (including those slices dedicated to Christ, our home and the poor) we needed to cut that evening. The lucky coin was discovered within my cousin's slice (that of my own Vassilopita, which we cut early New Year's morning, was found between my husband's and the poor's slices).
The Vassilopita my aunt so kindly bestowed upon us was so large, I had quite a bit left over since everyone was so full from everything else we devoured that evening. This Saturday while we were waiting for some friends to come by for a quick get-together, I decided to use the remaining tsoureki in this bread pudding, which was subtly sweet and accented with a handful of juicy sultanas. I drizzled a bit of honey over it just before serving, but would seriously consider making a sauce to complement it next time.
By the way, I love bread pudding and the best bread pudding I've ever eaten was seven years ago at the Grand Hyatt Kauai--I ate that sinfully rich, loaded-with-butter-eggs-and-cream bread pudding for six straight mornings during our stay there. Hey, we were on vacation ... that's allowed, right?!
Tsoureki Bread Pudding
8 to 10 thick slices of tsoureki
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup raisins
Use some of the butter to grease a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Tear or cut the tsoureki into 1- to 2-inch pieces and arrange in the baking dish.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla, cream and milk. Pour over the bread and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes or up to two hours covered in the refrigerator.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the raisins over the bread pudding and press some of them in to submerge. Bake until the bread pudding sets and is slightly golden and quite puffy, about 40 minutes. Cool a few minutes. Drizzle with honey (I used my favorite--thyme honey from Greece) and serve warm.