You know how I feel about pretzels (case and points 1, 2 and 3). I’ve had this idea for a pretzel bread pudding swimming around in my fat little brain for a while, but it wasn’t until recently I figured out the sauce that was going to bring it all together – CAJETA!
Cajeta is similar to dulce de leche, but uses goat milk instead of cow’s milk. The goat milk adds a very subtle, tangy flavor, similar to what you taste in goat cheese. You basically just simmer the milk until most of the water has evaporated and you’re left with a thick, sweet, caramelized milk. The process can take anywhere from 1 1/2 – 3 hours, depending on the type of milk you start with and the heat you’re simmering at. From start to end, my cateja took about 2 1/2 hours.
Totes worth it. Promise.
For the bread pudding, I used my favorite pretzel roll recipe along with a super basic custard base. I decided not to add any fruit or nuts, but you could easily add some raisins, dried cherries, pecans – whatever your foodie heart desires. By no means do you have to make pretzel rolls from scratch just to make bread pudding from scratch, but I’m crazy like that so that’s what I do. You can substitute store-bought pretzel rolls or regular soft pretzels, you’ll just need about 8-9 cups of it.
Pretzel bread from scratch is like the best thing ever, tho. So if you have time, do that.
There’s an optional step with the custard base for the bread pudding – infusing the milk and cream with the anise and cardamom. You can bypass this whole step and just use the vanilla paste/extract to flavor the custard. It will be just as delicious!
Let’s start with the cajeta, since she takes a while to get ready.
Bread pudding time!
Pretzel Bread Pudding with Cardamom Cajeta (Goat Milk Caramel)
makes 8-10 servings
bread pudding: ~1hr
for the cajeta
2 quarts goat’s milk
2 cups sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split
3 green cardamom pods, cracked
1 cinnamon stick (~2″)
1/2 tsp baking soda, dissolved in 1 tbsp water
for the bread pudding
8 pretzel rolls, torn into 1-inch pieces (~8-9 cups of bread)
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 star anise pod (optional)
3 green cardamom pods, cracked (optional)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste or extract
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
for the cajeta
In a large dutch oven (~6 quarts), combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean, cracked cardamom pods and cinnamon stick, and set over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the milk comes to a simmer and all of the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the dissolved baking soda. Depending on how acidic the goat milk is, the mixture will bubble up a lot. Once the bubbles subside, return the pot to the heat.
Adjust the heat to maintain the mixture at a brisk simmer – too high a heat and the mixture will boil over; too low and it’ll be a long and seemingly endless process. I was using a Le Creuset dutch oven, which keeps the heat pretty evenly distributed, so I kept the heat right at medium for most of the cooking process. Cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture turns pale golden, about an 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
Once the mixture becomes the consistency of syrup and the color turns from yellow to caramel, begin to stir more frequently to prevent any milk from burning on the bottom of the pan. Cajeta will thicken as it cools. To test the consistency, place a few drops of the cajeta on a cold plate – it should be the consistency of a thick caramel sauce. Continue to cook if necessary. I cooked my cajeta for 2 1/2 hours total.
Pour the cajeta through a strainer set over a bowl or a wide-mouth storage jar. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Cateja can be warmed just before serving by microwaving in 20 second increments until desired temperature. Add a few drops of hot water if the consistency is too thick.
Keep tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to a month.
for the bread pudding
Tear the pretzel rolls into 1″ pieces. Set aside.
(Note: If you’re using super fresh bread, you can lightly toast the cubed bread for 15 minutes in a 350F oven. It’ll dry the bread out a bit and allow for more of the custard to be absorbed. If you’re using day-old / stale bread, you can skip this step.)
Optional delicious but totally unnecessary step: In a small saucepan, combine heavy cream and 1 cup of milk over medium heat. Add star anise and cracked cardamom pods. Stir to combine, and heat mixture until it becomes steamy and barely starts to bubble. Remove from heat, cover, and let the spices steep in the milk for 30 minutes. After steeping, strain mixture into a large bowl. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350F and lightly butter a 9×13 inch casserole dish.
In the large bowl combine the cream, milk (if you infused your milk and cream, add the additional 1 cup of milk now), eggs, sugar and vanilla paste or extract. Whisk to combine. Pour the mixture over the torn pretzel bread. Set aside for ~20 minutes, allowing the bread soak up the custard mixture. Press down the bread pieces every few minutes to ensure all pieces are absorbing the custard.
Bake at 350F for 45-60 minutes. A toothpick inserted should come out clean. If it’s still a bit jiggly after 45 minutes, bake longer, checking every 5 minutes. The pudding should be slightly puffed and browned. Serve hot, warm or room temperature, drizzled with cajeta. Garnish with a sprinkle with sea smoked salt.
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours