Insanely Chocolatey Bread Pudding

February 28, 2012 § 2 Comments

One recent wintery day I found myself daydreaming about warm, gooey, chocolatey desserts… the kind best served with a dollop of melty ice cream. My mind quickly wandered to a chocolate chip bread pudding I’d had at a restaurant in San Francisco. I started to think, could you make an all-chocolate bread pudding? Turning to my go-to cooking manual The Joy of Cooking, I found a mouth-watering recipe calling for challah or brioche (which I did not have) and heavy cream (which I did not want to use).  I decided to try my luck at altering the recipe for health and convenience.  The resulting dish was even better than I’d anticipated.
I topped it with my homemade Faux Riche Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, and our family had dessert for dinner.  Don’t be too alarmed, the starter course was a spinach salad, so at least we got some veggies in.  Plus, the bread pudding is technically a custard, so we got our protein via eggs.

I used a Country Buttermilk sandwich bread, trimmed of crust and roughly chopped into cubes.  I wanted texture so was careful not to chop with too much precision.  The different sized pieces of bread with rough edges added to the appeal of the pudding.
The original recipe calls for 1 cup of heavy cream, and 2 cups of whole milk.  I researched custard a bit and found it is important to retain some of the fat in order for it all to come together, so I replaced the cream and whole milk with 2 cups of half and half and one cup of low-fat milk.
What makes bread pudding a custard?  In one word: eggs.  This recipe calls for four eggs; two whole and two egg yolks.  As always I used free-range organic eggs.  In this case, the eggs I used are also DHA Omega fatty acid enriched.
I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, but I’m sure you could try either bittersweet or even milk chocolate if you’d like.  If you used milk chocolate, you might want to reduce the sugar by 1/4 cup or more.  I replaced white sugar with brown sugar for this bread pudding.  I just love the warmer flavor brown sugar brings to the table.

Insanely Chocolatey Bread Pudding
adapted from The Joy of Cooking

1 pound (12 slices) buttermilk white bread, trimmed of crust and cut into 1 inch cubes (you can use any white bread, really)
2 cups half and half
1 cup low-fat milk
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla

Bring 1 cup half and half, sugar, and salt to a boil, stirring constantly, and remove from heat as soon as it gets rolling.  Add chocolate chips and set aside to allow chocolate to melt.  After 2 or 3 minutes, whisk chocolate mixture until smooth.

In very large bowl, beat eggs and egg yolks until light yellow.  Add milk, 1 cup half and half, and vanilla to egg mixture and whisk to blend.

Slowly pour chocolate mixture into egg mixture, whisking all along.  Be careful to add this slowly – you don’t want to cook the egg. Use rubber spatula to scrape every last bit of chocolate into the egg mixture.

Add bread to chocolatey egg mixture one handful at a time, carefully folding bread in to coat until all bread is wet with the mixture.  Allow bread to absorb chocolatey mixture for at least one hour (up to two hours), periodically pushing bread down to absorb more liquid.  Do not overwork the pudding/bread mixture, or your custard will be rubbery.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Select a shallow 2 or 2 1/2 quart baking dish to bake the pudding in and generously butter the inside.  Since this pudding is actually a custard, you will need to bake it in a water bath.  Don’t be nervous – it’s easier than you think.

Prepare water bath: take a large pan, large enough to hold your bread pudding baking dish without the sides of the pudding dish touching the larger pan.  I used a roasting pan.  Fold a dishtowel into quarters and place flat in bottom of larger pan, then place your selected pudding dish on top of the dish towel, testing to be sure the towel will support the dish.  You will want the water to come up to at least half of the height of the pudding baking dish, so here is where I recommend filling the larger pan with water up to the level you’ll need it.  Remove the pudding dish and set aside.  Pour your water into a large saucepan and place that on high heat, bringing it up to scalding (just barely boiling).

Pour the pudding mixture into the prepared smaller dish and smooth top with a spatula. Place the pudding back on top of the (now wet) towel, in the larger water bath pan.  When your water is scalding hot, quickly remove it from the heat, then quickly place your water bath pan and pudding in the oven.  Now very carefully, but also quickly, pour your scalding water (which you’ve pre-measured to fit) into the water bath pan, basically between the outside of your pudding dish but inside your larger water bath pan.

Bake in water bath until the center feels firm when pressed, 55 to 65 minutes.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes in water bath, then remove from water bath and allow to cool for an additional 35 minutes.  This cooling process is important, as your custard is still cooking.

Serve warm.  Best served with vanilla ice cream, but just as scrumptious with whipped cream or served alone.

Leftover pudding keeps for 3 days in the fridge, tightly covered.  I have even frozen individual portions.  You can re-heat individual portions of the pudding in the microwave.

Happy nibbling,


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