This bothered me for two reasons- one, I'm sure heaven is much better than the best food, and two, they weren't expanding their vocabulary. This was a perfect time. So we pulled out a thesaurus and looked up 'delicious' to come up with a new word to use. 'Toothsome' had them rolling on the floor laughing, so that became the new favorite.
I've discouraged them using 'heavenly' very often- but I'll tell you, that was the first word that popped into my head (I didn't say it!) when the first spoonful of moist, custardy, caramel-y, pumpkin dessert hit my tastebuds.
My apologies to Heaven.
This is a modified version of Caramel Bread Pudding. (The link has other ways of using up stale bread, too.) The spices in this play a supporting role to the pumpkin flavor: just enough there to help you notice the pumpkin, not the spice. If you want to taste the cinnamon, double or triple the amount here.
Caramel Pumpkin Bread Pudding- fills a 9x13 pan
15 slices good-quality white bread, cut into 1” pieces (about 16 cups or 20-24 ounces)- baked until crisp (about 10 minutes at 450 degrees)
1 ½ sticks butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
¼ c. honey or corn syrup
5 tsp. vanilla, divided
2 1/2 c. half-and-half, or use the last ½ cup evaporated milk from your can (above); use whole milk for the remaining 2 cups here.
5 large eggs
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. cinnamon OR 2 tiny drops cinnamon essential oil
1/4 tsp. ground cloves OR 1 tiny drop clove essential oil
1/2 c. toasted nuts, optional
Melt butter and sugar together in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Stir about 4 minutes, or until bubbly and golden. Remove from heat and stir in cream or evaporated milk, corn syrup, and 2 tsp. vanilla. Pour one cup of this caramel into a greased 9x13 pan.
Set aside one more cup of caramel, to use as topping later.
To the remaining caramel, add the half-and-half (or mixture of evaporated milk and whole milk). Beat the eggs together, then whisk in pumpkin, cinnamon, and cloves. Whisk in the half-and-half mixture. Add remaining vanilla. Fold in the bread, and let sit until soaked through, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees. Put bread mixture into the 9x13 pan, bake about 40-45 minutes, until the top is crisp and the custard is barely set. Sprinkle with toasted nuts. Serve warm, with the reserved cup of caramel drizzled on top.