photograph by Matt Hulsman

Yield: 6 servings.

For the candied bacon:
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 pound thick-cut bacon

For the bread pudding:
2 cups whole buttermilk
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
⅓ cup orange juice
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons molasses
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange zest
½ teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (15-ounce) can sweet potatoes, drained and mashed
1 (1-pound) loaf day-old French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

For the candied bacon: Preheat oven to 350°. In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, vinegar, and maple syrup.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place bacon slices on cooling rack set over the lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, turn slices, and bake another 10 minutes.

Remove bacon and brush both sides with brown sugar mixture. Return bacon to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Repeat basting every 5 minutes until bacon is browned and crisp.

Remove bacon from oven and coarsely chop. Set aside.

For the bread pudding: Spray a shallow 2½-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, brown sugar, orange juice, melted butter, molasses, spices, zest, salt, eggs, vanilla, and mashed sweet potatoes until combined. Stir in bread. Pour mixture into prepared dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, and sprinkle candied bacon evenly over the top. Bake until bread pudding is lightly browned around edges and set in the middle, approximately 15 to 20 minutes more.

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Lynn Wells is a personal chef with more than 20 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry and a degree in Nutrition Management from UNCG.

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