Chilly nights

During the height of winter, people increasingly retreat indoors and look for something to within the warm confines of home. Plenty of activities can fit the bill, but some provide the rewarding prospect of a freshly made meal or dessert.

When seeking recipes for cold days, consider those comfort foods that can be enjoyed warm to chase away the chill. "Croissant Bread Pudding" is an ideal choice. Topped with a rum-flavored sauce, it's sweet and decadent for all the right reasons. Enjoy this recipe from "The Pampered Chef: Stoneware Inspirations" (The Pampered Chef, Ltd.) by The Pampered Chef Test Kitchens.

Croissant Bread Pudding

Yields 12 servings

4 large croissants (about 3 ounces each)

1 red baking apple, such as Jonathan

6 eggs

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided

2 cups half and half

1 orange

1/2 cup pecan halves, chopped

3/4 cup butterscotch caramel ice cream topping

1/4 teaspoon rum extract

1/2 cup golden raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly spray a deep baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Slice croissants from top to bottom into 1/2-inch slices. Set aside 16 of the largest slices. Cube remaining slices and place in bottom of baker. Arrange reserved slices over cubes in an overlapping circular pattern. Core and slice apple, leaving peel on; cut slices in half. Tuck apple slices between croissant slices.

2. In a bowl, whisk eggs and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Pour half and half into a microwave-safe container and microwave on high 2 minutes or until hot. Slowly add half and half to egg mixture; whisk until blended. Carefully pour egg mixture over croissants. If necessary, lightly press croissants down to coat.

3. Zest orange to measure 2 teaspoons zest. Juice orange to measure 1/4 cup juice; set juice aside. Chop pecans. Combine remaining sugar, orange zest and pecans; sprinkle over croissants. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and set in center. Remove from oven to a cooling rack; let stand 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, combine ice cream topping, rum extract, reserved orange juice, and raisins in a microwave-safe container. Microwave on high 30 to 60 seconds or until hot; pour into serving bowl. Serve sauce over pudding.

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