banana-coconut bread pudding & salted caramel sauce


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What do you make when you’re going to a picnic or backyard bash and need to feed a crowd of sweet-toothed maniacs? This banana-coconut bread pudding and salted caramel sauce is the answer. With a creamy custard center and crispy buttery edges, you can’t go wrong! This indulgence can be served gooey and warm or made a day ahead of time and served cold. The great part of making it a day ahead, is that it sets in the refrigerator so that you can get beautiful square cuts that are packed with banana-coconut goodness. Always serve the salted caramel sauce warm, but feel free to make this ahead of time too. Just heat it up quick in the microwave before serving.

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A Common Connoisseur

This has been a long and wild year. Exactly one year ago, the Hubs and I were driving home from Savannah nervously laughing and asking, “What have we gotten ourselves into”. It was 2015 and we had just spent the 4th of July weekend in Savannah interviewing for our new jobs. We had no idea if even one of us would be hired and refused to move from Pennsylvania unless we BOTH got these jobs. It happened, we got the jobs and drove home on the 4th of July night, watching all the fireworks displays from the highway. We packed up our Pennsylvania home in 2 weeks and moved to Savannah.

I spent my 6th year as a special education teacher for kiddos with autism in Savannah’s public school system. After one year there, a myriad of challenges brought me to the realization that a change was needed. I prayed that some day I would be able to come home smiling from work and say, “I love what I do”.  A day where I would not come home crying from being overwhelmed and unsupported professionally. You see, the kids were great. But school districts are failing the teachers and, inadvertently, the kids. Unrealistic demands are placed with no thanks given for achieving them.

So one day in February 2016, I sat next to a mother of a child with autism at the Autism Conference. She shared photos of her son and how far he had come because of the Applied Behavior Analysis Center that he attends. “I’m a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and have always wanted to work at a place like that,” I told her in confidence. She grabbed my hand and lead me to a booth set up at the conference. “This is Maria. She is a BCBA and I think she would be amazing,” she declared as she faded away in the crowd. I turned around and she was gone. So, I began talking with the ladies at the booth and they explained that she was a mom of one of their clients at the center. As they asked for my name and number, it slowly dawned on me that this place was truly what I had been looking for.  A possible answer to prayer, this mother, like an angel, leading me to it.

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Tomorrow is the day, my first day as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, working one on one with kids who have autism at this incredible center. My decision to leave the classroom was not an easy one, but it was a prayerful choice. I know that God’s hand is in this new position and I am nervously excited to see what happens in the next year. I never would have guessed that I would be practicing as a BCBA for a private company!

So today, of course, is bitter sweet. It is my last day of summer vacation. This new job is a regular 8 to 5 with no summers off kind of gig. My husband tells me that now I have to be “like everyone else”. Ha. He’s just jealous. I’ve been blessed with this time off though. A few days after the last day of school, my girlfriends from PA came to visit. We went out on the town every night, had lots of laughs, enjoyed the sunshine on the beach, and ate way too much. Then I went home to New York, where I had mom’s apple pie, gorged on Italian food and had much needed family time. Then pretty much all my in-laws came to Savannah and we had a lovely time showing off our city. Seeing all of these loved ones in one month was such a blessing. When I wasn’t visiting with family or friends, I paddle boarded, swam in the ocean, visited new coffee shops, sunbathed at the pool, shopped locally and slept in every day. It certainly was a fulfilling time off, so here’s to a new chapter in my life!

Something as equally exciting as my new job is my new position as a Food Writer. Last week I met with the Editor in Chief of Connect Savannah (click) to discuss my role as a Food Writer for this fantastic newspaper. I will be sharing my Savannah foodie experiences here on my blog as well as for Connect Savannah, so stay tuned for my first piece!

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This delicious banana-coconut bread pudding and salted caramel sauce was featured a month after I started my blog {in 2015}. Although the taste and recipe remain the same, check out the differences in my photography and styling abilities above.

What changed? First off, I just recently purchased a Canon Rebel Ti5 DSLR camera. Yet, the truth is, you can have the best camera in the world and still not be able to take delicious photos. It definitely takes time to learn all the ins and outs of your camera’s features like aperture, ISO,  and shutter speed. The book “Plate to Pixel” by Helene Dujardin was a phenomenal food photography book for dummies like me.

While the quality of a photograph can be enhanced significantly with an exceptional camera, that is not the only reason my photography has improved. Aside from the fact that I did not utilize any props, the photograph taken in February 2015 was shot at night under my kitchen’s florescent lights. This created poor exposure, leaving an unappealing yellow tint on the photo. I soon after learned that natural light is food photography’s best friend. In my most recent photo {July 2016}, this dessert is set beside a window {on the right} and food props were used to add an inviting appeal. What a difference huh? I left the old post up on my blog so that I could look back and see my progress. Check it out yourself by clicking here.  If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.

ingredients

Bread Pudding

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 cups Italian bread (cubed or ripped)
  • 3-4 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut flakes

Caramel Sauce

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 2 tsp of vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

directions

  1. Caramel Sauce | Heat all ingredients in a small sauce pan on medium-low heat, continuously stirring with a whisk. After about 5-7 minutes the sauce will reduce and thicken. Set aside to slightly cool.
  2. Bread Pudding | Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13 baking dish with butter.
  3. Blend the cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla, coconut flakes and salt in a mixer. Add 3-4 mashed ripe bananas and mix again until fully incorporated. {When my bananas are overly ripe, I put them in the freezer. Then I heat the frozen bananas in the microwave for about 30 seconds to soften them.}
  4. Spread bread cubes in the greased baking dish and pour the banana cream mixture evenly over the bread cubes. Let the bread cubes soak up the mixture for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  5. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, until golden brown.
  6. Serve warm or chilled, drizzled with warm salted caramel sauce.

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Author: A Common Connoisseur

My name is Maria! I'm a vibrant Italian American with a zest for life. I am also a major glutton. Join me on my journey to diverse restaurants and in my kitchen, as I eat and cook my way through flavory fare. I am no expert, which is why I am merely a Common Connoisseur.

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