As though the candy canes on the tree and the presents under it aren't enough, here's an excuse to have an even sweeter start to Christmas.
Cinnamon buns were the inspiration. And while on their own they make a delicious breakfast, I wanted to take them a little further. So I chopped them up, drenched them in eggs and milk, then baked them into an insanely delicious (and simple) bread pudding.
To keep this recipe from becoming entirely heart stopping, I used fat-free half-and-half (skim milk is fine, too). If you wanted, you also could use liquid egg substitute (egg whites) to cut the fat even further.
And to help keep you focused on what really matters on Christmas morning (the presents!), this bread pudding can be assembled the night before, then covered and refrigerated. Bake as directed the next morning.
CINNAMON BUN BREAD PUDDING
This recipe calls for 12 fully baked cinnamon buns. Get them at the bakery or in the grocer's baking section. If you get raw cinnamon buns, bake them according to package directions, let them cool, then use them as directed in this recipe.
Start to finish: 1 hour (15 minutes active)
1 1/2 cups fat-free half-and-half or skim milk
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
12 large glazed cinnamon buns
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
In a blender or large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon and the salt. Puree or whisk until smooth. Set aside.
Cut each cinnamon bun into 1- to 2-inch chunks. Arrange the chunks in an even layer in the prepared baking pan. Pour the egg mixture over the pieces of cinnamon buns. As you pour, use a fork to gently press on the bun pieces to help them absorb the liquid.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly puffed and starting to brown. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk together the powdered sugar, water, vanilla and remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
To serve, drizzle the bread pudding with the glaze, then cut it into 12 squares.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 420 calories; 120 calories from fat (29 percent of total calories); 14 g fat (4 g saturated; 3 g trans fats); 110 mg cholesterol; 67 g carbohydrate; 9 g protein; 1 g fiber; 750 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking." Follow him to great eats on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch or email him at jhirsch(at)ap.org.