Friday, September 4, 2009

Retro Desserts, Part II: Dark-Chocolate Bread Pudding . . . with Whipped Cream

Chocolate bread pudding wasn't really on my agenda this week, one might say it just happened. And what a happening it was.

Of course, for typical American-style bread pudding you need typical American bread, and, typically, that means white. In my household we're not regular consumers of prefab, sliced, white bread at all--I can't even remember the last time I bought it. But, in my efforts to gain some skill in baking yeast bread, I figured I'd better learn to walk with the easy, fluffy, white stuff before I try to run with the chewy, nutty, brown breads. So a few days ago, using a new recipe, I made a batch of of white sandwich-bread dough, and the loaves it yielded were . . . well . . . they were lovely.

And speaking of "retro" . . .

As I pulled the pans one by one from the oven, I gazed at the loaves and thought to myself, ". . . my gosh, they're too perfect . . . they look like they're right out of one of those old 'Dick and Jane' books." (Yeah, right, the one titled "Dick and Jane Convince Their Mother, Who is Always Neatly Coiffed and Clothed in a Freshly Ironed Dress and Moderately High Heels, to Bake Her Own Bread" -- haa! I don't think that one's been written yet.) Needless to say, I was pleased with them. Coupled with the French baguettes I managed not to destroy last weekend, I've chalked up two yeasty successes in one week--previously unheard of for me. I'm on a roll.

Anyway, I made three sandwich loaves, all in pans of differing sizes. They were warm, golden, and charmingly rounded on top. Just like the three bears--big, medium, and small--they were darn cute. And let's face it, I'm so grateful when yeast cooperates with me that I could just about weep whenever things actually turn out the way they're supposed to. It's kind of pathetic, I know.

But enough about the bread, get to the pudding already!

My kids aren't big on white bread and that, of course, is a very good thing nutritionally, but they loved this stuff, especially slathered with peanut butter and jam. Thus the two smaller loaves went quickly, and just slightly less than half of the large loaf was still available yesterday when I happened to be sitting at the kitchen table sorting through some old handwritten recipe cards. As I pondered the dog-eared card for chocolate bread pudding, I realized I had just enough homemade bread left to give it a whirl, and I had all the other ingredients on hand as well. Nothing to stop me.

It seems to me (and perhaps you've noticed too?) that bread pudding recipes often indicate you should remove the crust from the bread before you cut it into cubes. I've always figured, though, if the bread itself is of really nice quality, and the crust isn't too chewy, stale, or tough, why not leave the crust on? I mean, let's be reasonable. So, in my instructions below I don't recommend removing the crust unless you feel compelled to do so, perhaps by forces beyond your control.

Now, bread pudding, as you know, isn't the type of dessert that will ever win a beauty contest. It's majesty lies not in its looks and form, but in its texture and taste. A dollop of softly whipped cream atop a little bowl of chocolate bread pudding enhances its visual appeal considerably, of course, but also adds immeasurably to its ambrosial yum factor. So be sure to have some cream for whipping on hand when you make your pudding . . . you won't regret it.

(And as for this recipe's attribution, well, all I know is that my late mom said she got it "from a newspaper" a few dozen years ago. That's not much to go on, but in this case it'll have to do. That's retro enough for me!)

This fantastic stuff can be eaten warm, room temp, even cold--you name it--it's that good.

Dark-Chocolate Bread Pudding

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 2-quart shallow baking/casserole dish.

4 cups whole milk (I didn't have any whole on hand so I used 2 cups of 2-percent and 2 cups heavy cream instead)
1/4 c. unsalted butter (I think it'd be fine with less butter, especially if you're using any cream)
4 oz. dark, bittersweet chocolate
4 oz. semisweet chocolate
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups soft fresh white bread cubes, about 1" square (with or without crust as you prefer)

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk/cream, the butter, and all of the chocolate. Heat the mixture over medium heat, just until it comes to a boil, stirring frequently.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla extract.

Add the bread cubes to the egg mixture and stir to completely coat all the bread cubes well.

Pour the hot milk and chocolate mixture over the bread cubes in the large bowl. Gently stir to mix, without breaking up the bread cubes.

Pour it all carefully into your buttered dish.

Bake until pudding is just "set" and still wobbly in the center but not wet looking, usually 45 minutes at least. Try not to overbake. (I baked mine on top of a cookie sheet to catch any spills.)

Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or cold, plain or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Makes at least six servings.

(If you'd like to comment on this post or read any existing comments, just click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


VeggieGirl said...

Oh my, that looks HEAVENLY!! And hey, is that Taza Stoneground chocolate?? I love that brand :)

Julia @ Mélanger said...

Wow, I grew up on bread pudding and just got nostalgic! Your bread, by the way, looks fantastic! I love the shape. P.S. Was just reading through some of your book recommendations. I have had "Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft" on my wishlist for a while. I'm a little obsessed with baking, too. I was worried it may be too much. But sounds like it could be just the ticket??!!

Jane said...

Hi VeggieGirl -- Thanks very much! Actually, that's from a huge bar of Trader Joe's brand dark chocolate. I'd never tried it before but heard it was pretty good, and I think it worked out great. I'd definitely buy it again for baking.

Thanks for stopping by!
:) Jane

Hi Julia --
I think that's so neat that bread pudding makes you nostalgic! My mom used to say that her mom, who had 8(!) kids, used to make a huge pan of it for their family to have on Sundays, and she loved it. About that book you mentioned, I really think it's a great text--very intense, serious, and thorough. I bought a used copy from Amazon last winter and a new edition came out shortly after I did so. I think it's a really helpful reference to have around even though most of the recipes are not scaled for home bakers.

:) Warmly,

Hanaâ said...

I was googling Choc Bread Pudding recipes and I found a link to yours. So there's no need to look any further! The weird thing is, I'm not a big fan of bread pudding, but I'm thinking that a Choc Bread Pudding might change my mind :o) Love the cream on top (prefer that to ice cream but only because I'm not a big ice cream fan). Thanks Jane!!