I may have mumbled and grumbling about traveling to Hawaii before we left for the trip last week, but if so the specific memories were washed away by the sounds of paddling on the ocean at dawn, the birds and knocking of trees in the jungle, the breeze/salt in my face and the ease of waking up to palm fronds swaying in the yard. And the sand in my bikini from getting tossed by those last couple of waves, after which I stood up laughing hysterically at myself. So good.
For years, we tried to move to Maui; to have this pace of life be the only on we practiced with any frequency. A pace of life where we don’t need a watch, wake up with the sun or according to the surf and tides. It was a lifestyle we came to know living on Okinawa and one we slip back into very easily when we find ourselves anywhere near the equator. It’s almost comedic to see just how quickly all of my little obsessive/compulsive tendencies get scrubbed away by the sand, lapped away by the sea. I stop wearing shoes (of course). I forget to check email, to be ridiculous about the uber-cleanliness of the house, to care what we have for dinner, and I stop looking at recipes. The overarching understanding is it will all work out, because what’s the worry?
I see now that – after the crazy year we’ve had – It would have been impossible for me to resist being lulled into submission by island life over the past week. Yes – there are kitchen cabinets to be re-finished, art to be hung, all of our lives to be reorganized in the new house, but our time in Maui reminded me that it’s all gonna happen in its due time. And not until we spent our last hours here packing in as much ocean time as possible, not until I had eaten a few more breakfasts and lunches in my bikini in the sun, not until we lost track of another afternoon or two in a book, or on a trail, or in the ocean, and not until I used up the Hawaiian sweet bread loaves that we’d stocked at the store when we arrived.
I woke up on our last morning in Maui with every intention of making french toast with that sweet bread and some passion fruit (lilikoi) that I’d found at the market earlier in the week. If you’ve never had Hawaiian sweet bread, you have to try it so you know that if its fresh (which this still was) it’s so delicate when you slice it….the french toast in my mind was fluffy, but not flaky. So I cut the loaf into pieces and turned it into bread pudding instead.
So – bread pudding. This is one of those straightforward formulas that I won’t ever stop recommending that you add to your personal repertoire…because it calls for all the things that you already have in your kitchen, and including that leftover loaf of bread. In our case, it was light, fluffy Hawaiian sweet bread (which you’ll be able to find in the bakery section of a well stocked grocery store,) but any bread or a combination of breads will do. Just slice up the bread and whisk together a custard (read: eggs and milk, or in our case, eggs and milk and yogurt) that will bake up around it. Then make it all taste good by adding whatever you have on hand; fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, herbs, spices, whatever. In our case, passion fruit and a plump little vanilla bean grown in Makawao – about 30 miles from where we were staying. Glorious. I churched this one up a bit, substituting a rich, thick coconut skyr yogurt for a good proportion of the whole milk/cream that is typically called for in bread pudding. The juices from the passion fruit filled in for another part which made this a little lighter than other bread puddings I’ve tried.
So – passion fruit. This is one of my absolute favorite things to eat on the planet. (On another trip to Hawaii, I made this. You see a pattern, yes?) Anyway, I recognize that not everyone is on a tropical island this time of year. No matter because any well stocked grocery store likely has a small selection of passion fruit at this time of year. They aren’t inexpensive, but you only need three little fruits or so. (Unlike the practical bushel that I bought because I just love the smell and the taste and was stirring them into yogurt and granola and everything else that could use a little stirring into.) Can’t find passion fruit? No bother – just pick whatever other fruit you’re loving on this time of year. In this case, I might suggest chunks or purée of banana, mango, scoops of pumpkin, or anything else you can think of. I didn’t strain the seeds from the passion fruit, as you would for most recipes, and instead opted to leave the seeds in for a little crunch; we all really liked the way it added a dimension to the sweet/tartness of the pudding. Since other fruit puree wouldn’t have that same built-in-crunch, you might want to toss in a handful of nuts or seeds as well that should you choose to substitute the fruit. If you don’t fuss too much about the passion fruit (whether or not to find it, that is,) this would make a great candidate for Christmas morning, New Year Brunch, or as a breakfast treat to give yourself for all the inevitable running around you’ve likely been doing these weeks.
I hope you have fun with this one; be confident and brave with it and make it your own. This particular recipe got me thinking about confidence in the kitchen (primarily because I was baking away from my own) and I hope that these ideas help you to get after it as the holidays are upon us. There’s nothing more satisfying than making something delicious for the people you love – this was for sure one of those little wins. – xo L
- 3/4 cup skim milk (or 1% milk)
- 1 cup full fat coconut skyr or plain greek yogurt
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- 1/3 cup passion fruit pulp (or fruit puree of your choice)
- 3-4 Tbsp honey (or lilikoi syrup!)
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
- 1 1/2 loaves of hawaiian sweet bread, challah or other leftover bread
- Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and lightly grease a 9x13" baking pan with coconut oil (or butter if you prefer.) Next, cube the bread into 1" cubes, and place in the prepared baking dish. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt, eggs, pulp, honey, vanilla bean seeds and cinnamon. Pour the mixture over the cubed bread. Stir gently to ensure that the liquid mixture is evenly distributed.
- Bake for 45-60 minutes (depending on your oven) or until golden brown on top. You'll know its done when all of the egg mixture is set and "jiggles as one!" Enjoy straight from the oven.