Coconut Monkey Bread Pudding

As children we all have foods that we would not eat. As we grow older, we change our minds on some foods and remain steadfast against others. I have a friend who won't eat strawberries and raspberries because he can't stand the amount of tiny seeds. In a similar vein, I love pomegranates but just can't swallow the seeds themselves. So I chomp on the seeds for the juice and then spit out the seeds. Yes, it's a disgusting foodie version of chewing tobacco and so I only eat pomegranates in private. I don't think I'll ever eat mushrooms, olives, or blue cheese, but I have started eating jalapenos, sushi, and bread pudding.

Even amongst puddings there can be varieties people won't eat. I love tapioca while others call it "fish eyes in glue". Yet I never cared for rice pudding, which is sort of crazy because it's a close cousin texture-wise to tapioca. I also hated bread pudding. I just didn't understand the appeal of soggy bread.

de Vere's deep fried version
This all changed in just the last year. I have had two bread puddings that really swayed me. The first was the deep fried bread pudding over at de Vere's pub. Now this isn't traditional in that it is covered in panko and fried, but it gave me an open mind to try other bread puddings. The second one was from the Wicked 'Wich truck. Being a sandwich truck, they take their leftover bread and turn it into different flavors of bread pudding with different sauces atop. In fact, it might have been the sauce that really helped me to like bread pudding. It adds not only extra moisture to each bite, but also another layer of flavor.

Recently Whole Foods gave me a free loaf of Rubicon Bakery's Cinnamon Bread. It's a new addition to their stores and they wanted me to try it out. Many others would call it a Monkey bread since it's a bunch of bread balls baked together with a sticky cinnamon sugar. This was right in the middle of when I was doing my Paleo February and couldn't eat any grains and breads. I threw it in the freezer while I gave thought on what I would do with it and whether I would continue to eat Paleo in the future.

March arrived and my Paleo experiment was over, but strangely enough, it did change my eating. I found I had absolutely no desire for rice and grains and even baking. I still wanted a sweet or dessert, but I wasn't rushing to bake something to fulfill the desire. Meanwhile the bread was still in my freezer.

The opportunity arose this week when we were to have dinner for a friend's birthday. I could make a bread pudding for dessert and take it to feed others while having a taste myself. I thawed out the cinnamon loaf and then started researching recipes.  In the end I chose to be a bit different by using coconut milk. The result was a delicious, moist, and rather light bread pudding. In fact, the comments from the others was that it seemed lighter and less dense than other bread puddings they had grown up with. Success! A hit!

The recipe below is actually a mix of a few recipes taken from 

Coconut Monkey Bread Pudding

2 T butter
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 (14 ounce) cans coconut milk
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t salt
2 T coconut extract
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut, divided
1 loaf of cinnamon bread, cut into 1 inch cubes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x9 inch baking dish with butter.
In a large bowl, combine sugar, eggs, egg yolk, coconut milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and coconut extract. Mix until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of flaked coconut. Fold in bread cubes until evenly coated. Pour into prepared pan. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/2 cup flaked coconut. Continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes, or until center is set and a knife comes out cleanly.

Vanilla Sauce

1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 T all-purpose flour
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 egg
2 T butter, melted
1 1/4 cups milk
1 pinch salt
1 T vanilla 

For sauce, whisk 1/2 cup of light brown sugar, the flour, a pinch of cinnamon, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 1/4 cups of whole milk,and salt together in a heavy saucepan until smooth. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and the sauce coats the back of a spoon, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Serve atop servings of bread pudding.