- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sucre, a pastry shop and cafe in New Orleans‘ Garden District, is a slick, light-filled space scented with the magical blend of butter and sugar baking together that wafts out from the production area in the back.

The creation of chef Tariq Hanna and owner Joel Dondis, the shop has been garnering rave reviews for its chocolates, pastries, cakes and desserts since it opened in 2007. Mr. Hanna, 40, a native of Nigeria who grew up in the shadow of a cacao plantation, was educated in the United Kingdom and abandoned studies in architecture in Michigan to attend culinary school.

He opened his first pastry shop in a Detroit suburb in 1993. After several successful jobs in the Detroit area, he decided to join forces with Mr. Dondis, a well-known New Orleans restaurant entrepreneur, to open Sucre.

The chocolates are beautiful and taste just as intriguing as they look. A display case nearby holds those airy and colorful Parisian-style macaroons, sandwiched with fillings as delicate as the macaroons themselves. A full array of individual pastries, breakfast items, and showy plated desserts rounds out the assortment. Though the shop is a probably too brightly lit for his taste, Tennessee Williams would have loved those macaroons and had one of his tragic New Orleans characters like Blanche DuBois addicted to them.

Mr. Hanna was kind enough to share his favorite recipe for a New Orleans standby, rich bread pudding. Sucre’s version stands head and shoulders above the rest because it’s made from diced croissants and Danish pastries left over from the day before for a subtle interplay of textures and flavors that can differ with each bite.

At Sucre, they serve the bread pudding with a generous scoop of ice cream sprinkled with chopped pecans, just in case it wasn’t rich enough already.

Sucre bread pudding

Any mixture of leftover yeast-risen pastries (such as croissants, brioche or Danish) will make a richer pudding than bread.

Makes one 9-inch round pan, or about 8 generous servings.

6 cups day-old bread (croissant or Danish preferred)

1 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup sour cream

4 large egg yolks

1/4 cup whole milk

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

A 9-inch round pan, 2 inches deep, buttered and lined with a disk of parchment paper, cut to fit, and set in another larger pan such as a small roasting pan

Cut the pastries or bread into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and fold in the cubed bread. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the mixture for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.

When you’re ready to bake the pudding, set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.

Fill the 9-inch pan with the mixture and add warm water to the larger pan to come about an inch up the side of the smaller pan.

Bake the pudding until it is set and firm and the custard is no longer liquid, about 1 hour.

Lift the pudding pan from the water and set it on a rack to cool. Then invert the cooled pudding to a platter and remove the pan and paper.

Serve wedges of the pudding, warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream.

• Nick Malgieri is the author of “Perfect Cakes” and “A Baker’s Tour” (HarperCollins) and “Perfect Light Desserts” (Morrow).

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