Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Two years ago, when I got "The Way We Cook" book by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven, I doggie-eared Perdix's chocolate bread pudding page. "Oh yeah -- I should make it soon!" I always thought when leafing through the book, but the occasion never presented itself. Either it was summer and bread pudding seemed too heavy, or it was a special occasion and bread pudding seemed too homey, or some ripe fruit were begging to be used in a pie (I am much more of a fruit than a chocolate dessert person). But finally, the chocolate bread pudding had its day. What better occasion for this decadent dessert than a skiing trip!

This pudding required a bit of planning since it had to soak overnight, but it was super easy to put together. All I had to do the day of serving was throw it in the oven. I followed the recipe with one exception: I used french bread instead of challah. It still turned out extremely rich and delicious. The sour cherries that the recipe suggests to layer between the bread were a good addition, but I was missing a crunch in this pool of chocolate richness. Next time, I'll add some chopped walnuts of pecans. I might also substitute the cherries for a black currant sauce. When we were in Burgundy, we had an amazing chocolate cake with a liquid black currant center, and I wonder whether that flavor combination would work well for bread pudding.

I am warning you -- unless you are planning on at least 2 hours of physical activity that day or were blessed with a miraculous metabolism, don't try this at home. This is a dessert of mass destruction. It's dark, it's rich, and it's dangerous. So when you are standing over that dish of luscious chocolate sneaking that last bite at midnight (and then one more *really* last one), don't tell me I didn't warn you.

Perdix's Chocolate Bread Pudding
(Helen's version)

Serves 8
If you only need 4 servings, make half the recipe -- this stuff is too rich to have leftovers and it's not nearly as good reheated.

For Pudding:
1 loaf (1 pound) challah or french bread (a round or pullman shape, not a baguette)
1 cup roasted and chopped walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (the darker the better -- I used 85% cocoa)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half-and-half
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon, mixed with 1 Tbsp sugar

Whipped cream for serving

For Black currant sauce (optional):
1/2 cup black currant preserve
1/4 cup Cassis (black currant liquor)

The night before serving
  1. Butter a 7 x 11 x 2 baking dish or another dish with a 2 1/2 quart capacity. Set it aside.
  2. Remove the crust from the bread and slice it 1/2 inch thick. Line the bottom of the dish with the bread, trimming the pieces to make them fit snugly. Sprinkle with walnuts and cover with remaining bread.
  3. In the top of a double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water, combine the chocolate, cream, half-and-half, butter, sugar, and salt. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until the chocolate and butter melt.
  4. Remove from the water, wipe the bottom of the pan, and set aside until it is warm but not hot.
  5. When the chocolate mixture has cooled to barely over lukewarm, beat the eggs and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer for 1 minute. With the mixer on low speed, slowly beat in the chocolate mixture (be sure the chocolate is not too hot or the mixture will curdle).
  6. Slowly pour the custard over the bread, and spread it with a rubber spatula.
  7. Sprinkle the pudding with cinnamon sugar. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (8-24 hours).

2 hours before serving:

  1. Remove the pudding from the fridge 1 hour before baking. Lift off the plastic wrap.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  3. Bake the pudding in the center of the oven for 40 minutes, or until the top is crusty and the custard doesn't wiggle when you shake the pan. Let cool 10-15 minutes while making the sauce.

Black currant sauce:

  1. Combine black currant preserve and cassis in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low, and simmer 1 minute.
  2. Scoop pudding into bowls, top with sauce and whipped cream.


Cate said...

Sounds divine!

Anonymous said...

This looks positively sinful! I'll have to eat it after something virtuous for dinner... like maybe a glass of water! :)

CM said...

Do you think this would be too rich with a creme anglaise?

Helen said...

Hi CM,

I think creme anglaise would work great! Hmmm, you could even do ginger creme anglaise.