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Bread pudding is always on the menu, but this month is the time to get pumpkin spice.

Image: Alice Levitt

Bread pudding is not one of those foods, like pizza or fried chicken, that is always good, even when it's bad. In fact, bad bread pudding, dry and cakey, dense and chewy, can be soul-crushing. Fortunately, one place that will certainly not happen to you is Laurenzo's on Washington Avenue.

Chef Donny Navarrete is scrupulous about making everything from scratch at his restaurant. Even bread is crafted early in the morning by the pastry chef in the kitchen at El Tiempo Market. The Laurenzo family (including co-owner Domenic Laurenzo) owns both businesses, as well as the El Tiempo Cantina chain. In the case of the bread pudding, that's day-old brioche, soaked in custard. The result is remarkably airy, and melts beneath the thrust of a spoon. As it should be, the dessert is more warm pudding than bread, with custard filling every tiny orifice of the bread and deliciously infesting and overtaking it. 

Poetic? Maybe. But once a year, it takes a desirable step toward the basic. Yep. It's pumpkin time. Navarrete says the dish is partly a tribute to his wife, who, to his chef-y disdain, is a fan of all things pumpkin spice. But while pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices are a part of the dessert, they don't overwhelm it. There's no doubt what the intended flavor is, but no one will feel overdosed with saccharine. It's a happy medium, then, that both pumpkin spice lovers and haters can agree on.

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