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Winter Blues

Right around this time, I get a bad case of the winter blues. Once the holiday decorations have been packed away and the holiday feasts are over, a quiet lull falls upon everybody. I heard January is one of the most depressing months of the year and I truly believe it. I haven’t seen the blue sky for a week, and don’t even get me started on the sun. Who knows where that thing went?!

Not only is the weather abysmal, but everyone seems to be on a crazy mission to complete those resolutions. Gyms are packed, produce aisles in the grocery stores are brimming with people. The mere mention of baked goods brings upon a ridiculous fury. It’s all a little too much for me. I am all about healthy living, but moderation is where it’s at. Actually, I believe a little dessert might perk up your day during these bleary winter months.

What chases away those winter blues? Chocolate Bread Pudding. Now I’ve got you hooked, right?

It’s hard to believe that I went years without discovering the joys of bread pudding. The mere notion of bread soaked in custard and baked until slightly firm would have made my stomach turn. But after a delicious and successful attempt with this recipe, I changed my tune. I won’t lie; bread pudding is an acquired taste. If you aren’t a fan of French toast or even soggy waffles, I’d guess that bread pudding wouldn’t be your cup of tea. For those who dream of warm bowls filled to the brim with softened bread and sweet cream, let me tell you something. This recipe will haunt you. No joke.

Dieters, vegans, chronic calorie-counters, and other martyrs, beware. Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate Bread Pudding is not for the faint of heart with the pillows of warm bread surrounded by rich, chocolate custard.

The recipe’s base is a sweet bread like Brioche or Challah, and since my yeast skills are severely lacking, I went to a local bakery and picked up a loaf of challah. Your bread should be slightly stale that way it doesn’t get too mushy when baked. The chocolate custard is made from whole milk, heavy cream, and eggs. Some bread puddings can be a bit too eggy for me but the chocolate masked any leftover eggy flavor. The original recipe called for bittersweet chocolate but I used equal amounts of bittersweet and semisweet. I didn’t want a complete chocolate bomb, especially since I made this dish in the midst of the holiday season and chocolate was practically falling from the sky.

The recipe states that the pudding is better served at room temperature, but I beg to differ. When it’s warm and toasty, the chocolate-soaked bread melts in your mouth. I like to serve the dessert with a healthy dollop of whipped cream which enhances the chocolate flavor. For those of you party planners, this would be a fantastic dish for Valentines Day, which is around the corner. Rich, gooey, and decadent. Those are the perfect words to describe this bread pudding and it is exactly what the doctor ordered during these gloomy winter months.

Chocolate Bread Pudding
Printable recipe (coming soon)
Origin: Dorie Greenspan, “Baking: From My Home to Yours”
Yields: 8-10 servings

12 ounces bread (brioche, challah, or white), preferably stale
1/2 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cherries (optional)
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used semi-sweet instead)

1. Have a 9-by-13-inch baking pan at hand (a Pyrex pan is perfect here), as well as a roasting pan big enough to hold the baking pan in hot water. Line the roasting pan with a double thickness of paper towels.

2. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. If the bread is stale, put it and the raisins or cherries, if you are using them, into the baking pan. If it is not stale, spread it out on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat and bake in a 350°F (175°C) oven to “stale” it for 10 minutes, then toss into the pan (with the fruit).

3. Bring the milk and cream just to a boil.

4. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar together in a bowl. Still whisking, slowly drizzle in about one quarter of the hot milk mixture — this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they don’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the rest of the hot milk. Add the chocolate and whisk it in gently until it is melted and the custard is smooth. Rap the bowl against the counter to pop any bubbles that might have formed, then pour the custard over the bread and press the bread gently with the back of a spoon to help cover it with liquid. Leave the pan on the counter, giving the bread the back-of-the-spoon treatment now and then, for 30 minutes.

5. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

6. Put the baking dish holding the unbaked pudding into the roasting pan, and then slide the pan setup into the oven and very carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the pudding pan. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the pudding is uniformly puffed, the top is dull and dry and a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Transfer the baking pan to a rack and cool to room temperature.

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January 11, 2010 - 10:40 am

bright and blithe - I would agree that January calls for extra chocolate, and the more grey the day, the more the need.

January 11, 2010 - 11:38 am

Shannalee - Bread pudding is exactly what I made recently to beat my winter blues! Yours does have the added benefit of chocolate though, so I see that as a call to action. I think I know what I need to do.

January 11, 2010 - 11:40 am

whitneyinchicago - GREAT Valentines idea. I feel like a lot of bread puddings are just not done well, but this one sounds like a winner.

January 11, 2010 - 11:51 am

Natalie - I m not a big fan of bread pudding this one must be delicious :)

January 11, 2010 - 12:15 pm

Nicole - Oh…my. You really know how to get a pregnant woman’s weak spot! I would say something more articulate, but I need to go wipe the drool from my mouth now…

January 11, 2010 - 1:18 pm

Lindsey - I have never actually had bread pudding, but I’m considering it.

I too get the winter blues. While we do have blue skies a lot more often around here, we also have super freezing temperatures…it gets REALLY dreary in March, when I just want to pack up and move somewhere far nicer.

January 11, 2010 - 3:52 pm

Hannah - I’ve got the winter blues too – this sounds perfect.

January 11, 2010 - 4:43 pm

Amanda - haha well, you are eating for two now! Go for it :)

January 12, 2010 - 8:35 am

Tracy - its funny, because I was SO in the mood for bread pudding over the weekend. I made this one … and was really disappointed. much too sugary and eggy. I’m going to have to try this one and remedy my bad bread pudding blues. it sounds fantastic!

January 12, 2010 - 2:00 pm

EB - Viva Chocolate!!!

January 13, 2010 - 8:01 am

Amanda - When bread pudding is eggy, it’s all over. I hate that. I think the best way to prevent that is make sure you mix the eggs well and to spread the custard evenly. Some recipes call for more egg yolks than I’d like so I steer clear of them too. Good luck!

January 15, 2010 - 2:43 pm

Sara - oooohhh that looks like trouble. So moist and eggy, I want that picture of the bite immediately… and then the rest of the pan.

January 16, 2010 - 5:49 am

molly - oh, i couldn’t agree more. moderation IS where it’s at, indulging in bright, flavorful (chocolate-full!) foods that satisfy in just the right amounts. with plenty of vivid veg to satisfy. this looks divine. molly

December 16, 2010 - 7:49 am

Christmas Treats « Slow Like Honey - [...] Chocolate bread pudding. [...]

March 7, 2011 - 10:11 pm

Hannah - I am not sure if it is the hour of night or what but if I had this right now I would be in heaven! It looks ridiculously good. Bread pudding is my favourite dessert.

December 23, 2011 - 6:02 am

Holiday Classic: Chocolate Bread Pudding | Slow Like Honey - [...] Originally posted here. [...]

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