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.