I first made a version of this recipe 10 years ago, but made it plain & without the sauce. Now after making this version as I have listed, I realize that the plain version just did not do the recipe justice. This version is SO much better.
The toasted pecans really does enhance the nutty flavor in the recipe, the bourbon sauce takes it to another level. Then I topped it with cool whip, which made it even more delicious with the sauce. It is a bit more work but still not difficult to make, & so worth it. I did make a few changes, this is my version. The original recipe from Southern Living.
Chop pecans, if not already chopped, then toast in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Then set aside till needed. May toast bread in same oven at same time, but may require additional extra time till fully toasted. Stir after the first 15 minutes, and adjust time as needed.
These are the main ingredients. I didn't have all raisins, so I used dried cranberries & raisins. The original recipe suggested golden raisins. The Mexican Vanilla is a gift from Phyllis Lively here at Just A Pinch. I love it's strong aromatic sweet flavor.
Using a large bowl add one cup of toasted pecans, (RESERVING THE REMAINDER FOR THE TOPPING)cinnamon, Mexican Vanilla, brown sugar & melted butter. Stir to mix together.
Then add in the eggs and beat till well blended together.
Add in the toasted bread cubes, and stir to mix together. Allow to sit about 15 to 20 minutes, or longer if needed to absorb the liquid.
Spray an 8 X8 size , I used a 9X9 size pan, then pour batter into pan and bake in preheated 350 degree oven about 25 to 30 minutes. Should look like this.
While Pudding is baking, assemble the topping by combining the 1/2 cup reserved toasted pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon, stir till blended together.
Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the bread pudding & return to the oven for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the pudding is set and the topping is browed. Remove from oven.
Prepare the bourbon sauce by adding the butter to a small sauce pan along with the firmly packed browned sugar & corn starch, whisk as butter begins to melt & sugar dissolves over low heat, and mixture slowly comes to boil, then pour in the heavy whipping cream and whisk together till blended abut 2 minutes. Add the bourbon & cook for about 1/2 minute. Remove from heat and add in the Mexican vanilla & whisk until thoroughly blended. Allow sauce to cool slightly before serving.
This is what the bread pudding looked like when baked with brown sugar topping. Note: I omitted the bourbon because of the strong flavor of the Mexican Vanilla