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The first time I had Thai iced coffee was at a little place in SoHo about a year after I'd first moved to New York. It was a tall glass filled with octopus ink-black coffee, broken up only by the sharp glint of ice cubes pressing against the sides. And then it happened: a thick ribbon of sweetened condensed milk cascaded lazily into the glass. The strong chilled coffee, perfumed with spices blended with the condensed milk into nothing short of an elixir in the sweltering heat of summer.
I wanted to infuse a dessert with those heady flavors and thought bread pudding would be ideal. Bread cubes would greedily soak up the liquid and wouldn't interfere with the overall taste of the coffee mixture.
I've made bread pudding with everything from sliced white to croissants, but much prefer challah; it absorbs the custard nicely while retaining its shape so the pudding isn't a mushy mess. In this recipe, the custard is made with sweetened condensed milk and a generous amount of espresso powder, accentuated with floral cardamom, spicy cinnamon, and the perfume of almond extract. To ensure a silky pudding, there's a large quantity of egg yolks in the mix, baked at a moderate temperature to prevent curdling (think of basic baked custards, like flan).
Serve this Thai coffee-inspired bread pudding with chilled orange whipped cream.