LOS ANGELES -- Dear Culinary SOS: My friends and I were in New Orleans in March and ate at this wonderful restaurant on St. Charles Avenue. For dessert we shared their sweet potato bread pudding. Any chance you can get that recipe for us? It was yummy! -- Kate McPike, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Dear Kate: Unapologetically rich, Zea's dense sweet potato bread pudding has an almost cakelike texture, with a crunchy pecan topping. It's great on its own, but baptized with a thick, sweet rum sauce, it's downright inspired.
Zea's Sweet Potato Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce
Servings: 12 to 16. Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus cooling time. Adapted from Zea Rotisserie and Grill in New Orleans. The restaurant bakes the pudding in a 3-inch-deep casserole dish; if using a dish this depth, the baking time can increase by as much as an hour.
Sweet potato bread pudding:
3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (from 1 large boiled, peeled and mashed sweet potato)
1/3 pound butter, melted
1 quart milk
1 cup raisins
1 pound stale French bread cubes, cut into 1/2- by 1/2-inch cubes