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Paned White Chocolate Almond Bread Pudding

INGREDIENTS:Bread Pudding: 2 quarts milk
1 lb. unsalted butter
4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lb. diced stale bread (½ inch)
14 oz. sugar
10 oz. coarsely chopped white chocolate
3 oz. blanched slivered almonds, toasted
1 tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground allspice
12 eggs, lightly beaten

Rum Sauce:
2 lbs. sugar
1 ¼ cups water
3 Tbsp. plus 1 ½ tsp. lemon juice
13/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup dark or amber rum
9 oz. unsalted butter
10 oz. all-purpose flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
3 ½ oz. panko (Japanese toasted bread crumbs)
4 oz. natural sliced almonds, ground
9 oz. unsalted butter
9 whole bananas, sliced ¼ inch thick as needed, white chocolate curls
5 oz. blanched, slivered almonds, toasted DIRECTIONS:To make bread pudding: In large pot, heat milk, butter and vanilla over medium heat just until butter melts. In large bowl, combine all remaining pudding ingredients except eggs. Add milk mixture; mix well. Cool slightly. Carefully fold in beaten eggs, stirring constantly until incorporated to prevent eggs from cooking. Pour into greased 2-inch-deep hotel pan. Pudding should be about 1 inch deep. Bake in 300°F oven for 1 hour, or until set. (Pudding should be firm enough to cut and retain its shape when cool.) Cover and chill overnight or until very firm. Using 3-inch round cutter, cut 18 rounds of bread pudding, cutting 3 wide by 6 long. Cover and chill until service. (Yield: 18 bread puddings.)

To make rum sauce: In a very clean pan, bring sugar and water to a boil over medium heat; cook about 4 minutes to reach a clear syrup consistency. Stir in lemon juice; simmer 10-12 minutes, or until mixture begins to caramelize. Add cream and rum; simmer 6-8 minutes, or until thickened to desired consistency. (Use caution, as mixture will bubble up vigorously.) Whisk in butter; remove from heat. (Yield: about 4½ cups.) Set up 3 containers for breading: one for flour, one for eggs whisked with the milk, and one for panko and ground almonds.

For each serving to order: Dredge 1 bread pudding round with flour. Dip into egg wash, then into panko mixture, pressing to coat. In small saute pan, melt 1 Tbsp. butter over medium-low heat. Fry bread pudding 2 minutes per side or until golden brown; plate. Warm 2 oz. rum sauce; drizzle on plate around pudding. Garnish with ½ sliced banana, white chocolate curls and 1 Tbsp. toasted slivered almonds. SERVINGS:1 hotel pan (18 servings) From:Chef Clint Whittemore, Mat & Naddie’s Restaurant, New Orleans PHOTO CREDIT:Photo Credit: ALMOND BOARD OF CALIFORNIA