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Pumpkin has really been enjoying its popularity for the past month or so, and for me, the love is just getting started. Since early October, I have been turning out pumpkin breads, pumpkin soup and pumpkin cake and I’m still not tired of the glorious gourd.

Thanksgiving is, of course, pumpkin’s real time to shine ever since pumpkin pie was introduced to the holiday table in 1623. Now, according to the American Pie Council, the number of pumpkin pies served on Thanksgiving across the country could easily span more than half the globe.

Unlike a lot of people, I reserve my enjoyment of pumpkin pie strictly for that day, as I make my mother’s recipe and it’s really the only pumpkin pie I like. I consider that my very own tradition.

But pumpkin bread pudding is entirely another matter. Bread pudding is itself a joy to behold and I make several different versions from sweet to savory. This particular pumpkin bread pudding is a favorite of mine, and unlike the pie, I don’t restrict the enjoyment to only one day a year.

You can make this ahead — refrigerate to let the flavors soak in the bread and bake while dinner is being enjoyed. Served warm with maple whipped cream or salted caramel ice cream, it could easily be a Thanksgiving dessert that may give pie a run for its money. Even better, skip the toppings and serve warm for breakfast with some crispy strips of bacon and hot coffee.

I also want to share what Anwar, a very helpful person in the bakery department at Holiday Market in Royal Oak, suggested. When I couldn’t find challah that wasn’t sliced, she told me to use both or either egg buns for hamburgers and hot dogs. They are rich, you can cube them into your desired size and they are less expensive than a loaf of challah.

KLawson@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/KateLawson14

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

1 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs plus 1 yolk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Pinch of ground cloves

5 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old baguette or challah or egg bread

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans

Caramel sauce, whipped cream or ice cream for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in middle.

Whisk together cream, pumpkin, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, and spices in a bowl.

Toss bread cubes with butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish sprinkle with pecans and bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with warm caramel sauce (homemade or purchased) and sweetened whipped cream or ice cream if desired. Serves 6.

Per serving (without optional toppings): 504 calories; 37 g fat (19 g saturated fat; 66 percent calories from fat); 37 g carbohydrates; 20 g sugar; 197 mg cholesterol; 304 mg sodium; 8 g protein; 2 g fiber.

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