Mary Anne's Thanksgiving Morning Maple-Bacon Bread Pudding

Ever say "bacon makes everything taste better?" Well, bread pudding is no exception! Your family will be pleasantly surprised on Thanksgiving morning when they taste their first bite of this delectable dish. Plus, it can be prepared the night before and refrigerated.

6 cups 1/2" cubes stale bread

4 large eggs

3 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 cup whole milk

1 cup 100% pure maple syrup, divided

1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans, plus more for garnish

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 pound bacon, cooked, divided

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter thoroughly 9x13 inch baking dish. Pat bacon with paper towel to remove excess grease. Crumble half (8 ounces) of cooked bacon and leave other half (8 ounces) in strips. Set aside.

-Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in 3 cups of the heavy whipping cream, milk, 1/2 cup maple syrup, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, pecans, salt and spices. Add the bread and stir well. Mix in melted butter. Let sit for 30 minutes so the bread will absorb the egg mixture. Add bacon crumbles (1/2 pound) and stir into the bread mixture.

-Pour into the prepared dish Bake until firm when pressed in the center, about 1 hour.Cool on a wire rack until just warm, about 20 minutes. Serves 8 to 10.

Maple Cream Sauce:

-In a small saucepan heat the remaining cream, syrup, brown sugar, vanilla and salt. Cook until the sauce just begins to bubble. Remove from heat. To serve, cut the bread pudding into 8 to 10 pieces. After plating, drizzle with the sauce and garnish with 1/2 slice of bacon and a small amount of toasted pecans.

Note: You can butter or spray with Pam muffin pan(s) (depending on the size of the muffin pans) and add bread pudding mixture. Watch carefully because baking time will be considerably less. After a few minutes, remove from pan(s) and drizzle with sauce and garnish with 1/2 strip of bacon and a small amount of toasted pecans.