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Day-old bread is the secret to any bread pudding, but Gail Simmons' bourbon-butter sauce makes this version a cut above.
Pro Tip: Freeze any leftover bread and pastry ends to save up for this recipe—just let the pastry bits thaw at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before using.
For another sweet way to use up leftovers, check out Gail's Coconut Rice Pudding.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the ends on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast, stirring once or twice, until lightly golden and dry, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the fruit, if using, and ¼ cup of the sugar to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is golden and softened, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the bourbon or brandy. Return the pan to the heat and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened and syrupy, about 1 minute. Stir in ¼ cup of maple syrup and set the pan aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk, cinnamon and the remaining ¾ cup sugar. Add the bread or pastry, fruit and sauce mixture, and toss to evenly coat throughout. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the bread or pastry to absorb the mixture. Brush a large baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the remaining melted butter. Add the bread pudding mixture, drizzle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter and 1/4 cup maple syrup. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the pudding is set and the top is golden. Let the bread pudding cool slightly, then scoop and serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.
The pudding can be refrigerated for up to 2 days and reheated slowly to serve.