At the end of 2010 we held our third annual statewide recipe cook-off. Our featured ingredient was cherries and our lead judge was senior food editor of Midwest Living magazine, Diana McMillen. By sheer coincidence, the top finisher has “Washington” in the name of their inn, although be assured no cherry tree was cut down in the process! Couldn’t help but think the winning recipe for Door County Cherry Bread Pudding from innkeeper Rita Nelson of the Port Washington Inn would make for a sweet Valentine’s morning breakfast in bed:
Bread cut into cubes (The bread you use could make a difference in the amount required. Make certain you have enough toasted bread cubes to fill a 9X13 pan slightly heaped as the bread will be absorbing some of the liquid.)
6 large eggs
3 ½ cups milk
½ cup Wisconsin maple syrup
1 cup dried Door County cherries
In a moderate oven, melt 1/4 cup butter in a jelly roll pan. Add the cubed bread to the jelly roll pan and place in a 450°F oven to toast until nicely browned (watch carefully). While bread cubes are toasting, use the blender to blend the eggs, milk, and maple syrup. Place toasted bread cubes into a large bowl and pour the liquid from the blender over them, mixing well. Add this mixture to a previously well buttered 9×13 baking pan. Add more milk (or half & half) so the level of liquid in the pan is approximately equal to the level of the bread. Sprinkle the dried Door County cherries over the top, mixing them throughout the pan. Sprinkle lightly with raw sugar and bake at 350°F until the middle is firm and the top is nicely browned, approximately 1 hour. Serves 12.
For the Sauce:
Frozen tart cherries
Frozen sweet cherries
A simple and tasty sauce can be made by pureeing equal amounts of tart and sweet cherries (we use frozen and pitted), then sweetened to your taste with raw sugar. Or this combination of cherries can be left whole and lightly sweetened to create a sauce as the cherries thaw.