Short List: Bread pudding

You’ve come a long way, bread pudding. Of the many excellent bread puddings in town, the top three all share one very fortunate fact: They’ve moved well beyond the formula of raisin-studded, leftover bread baked in a flurry of rum, cream and spices, and drizzled with caramel sauce. Not that there’s anything wrong with going old-school. But the chefs responsible for the stupendous versions below have called upon the wonders of brioche, a little caramelization and the surprisingly fitting flavors of cherries and oranges to turn the humble into truly ambrosial.

Robust Wine Bar
227 W. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves, 314.963.0033

You don’t have to be crazy about orange-flavored dishes to experience a transformative moment when Robust’s dreamsicle bread pudding leaves the fork for your tongue. And boy does it live up to its name. What makes it so divine? Quite simply, it’s the meet-up of warm brioche baked with cream, egg yolks, triple sec, white chocolate, and orange zest and juice. A scoop or two of creamy house-made dreamsicle ice cream melts into the fissures of the steaming, rich, orange-laden dessert, and you’re left to wonder why all versions don’t add a little citrus to the fun. What happens when two people share this tidy field of orange dreams? Their spoons meet in the middle, and the final bite becomes a minor fight.

Harvest Seasonal Market Cuisine
1059 S. Big Bend Blvd., Richmond Heights, 314.645.3522

They say the bread pudding at Harvest is among the best in town, and now that we’ve done our due diligence, we can proudly proclaim: They ain’t lying. If serotonin were a dessert, this is what it would taste like. The brioche is de-crusted and cubed, baked with custard, and covered in sticky caramel-currant-bourbon sauce. Finished with vanilla whipped cream, the sum of its warmth, sweetness and luscious texture is so grand, it can even make one of Harvest’s excellent entrées seem like an opening act for this magical send-off.

603 E. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves, 314.963.3232

When your server drops off the caramel brioche bread pudding at Cyrano’s, like so many of the other jaw-dropping specialties at this den of dessert iniquities, it dazzles by way of sheer verticality. Great cumulus clouds of billowing whipped cream surround the bread pudding like angels lifting a soul to heaven. The pudding, a similarly heaven-ward mound of carbs that’s been caramelized and kissed with a sweet caramel glaze, combines with the whipped cream and cherry-bourbon sauce to form a ménage à trois fit for sugar-loving souls. Not cleaning your plate is strictly the provenance of fools.

To see this month's Short List Runner-Up, click here.