Doris Beckert assembles this scrumptious puffy bread pudding the night before. If you don't have 8 soufflé dishes, assemple ingredients in a shallow 2 1/2- to 3-quart baking dish; bake 5 to 15 minutes longer.
Prep and cook time: about 1 hour, plus 8 hours to chill
1/2 pound croissants (2 or 3)
About 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine, at room temperature
2 packages (3 oz. each) neufchatel cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups maple syrup
10 large eggs
3 cups lowfat milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
Raspberries or edible flowers, such as rose petals or nasturtiums, rinsed and drained
How to Make It
Tear croissants into 1/2-inch chunks. Whirl in a food processor until coarsely chopped, or chop with a knife. Butter 8 soufflé dishes (1- to 1 1/4-cup size) and fill equally with croissant pieces.
In a food processor, combine neufchatel cheese, 1/2 cup butter, and 1/4 cup maple syrup; whirl until blended. (Or, in a bowl, beat with a mixer until smoothly blended.) Drop equal portions into each soufflé dish.
In a bowl, beat eggs to blend with 1/2 cup maple syrup and the milk. Pour equally into each soufflé dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover and chill at least 8 hours or up to 1 day. Set dishes slightly apart in a 10- by 15- inch pan.
Bake, uncovered, in a 350° oven until pudding-soufflés are richly browned and centers barely jiggle when gently shaken, 45 to 50 minutes.
About 5 minutes before pudding-soufflés finish baking, in a 1- to 1 1/2 quart pan over medium-high heat, frequently stir remaining 1/2 cup maple syrup until hot. Sprinkle pudding-soufflés with pecans, dust with powdered sugar, garnish with berries or flowers, and add hot syrup to taste.