Chocolate Bread Pudding
This morning I went out to breakfast and ordered a hot chocolate instead of my usual coffee. The drink disappointed me. The chocolate wasn’t rich enough. The milk was too watery. I don’t normally drink hot chocolate, so when I do, I want to indulge! I don’t want to have everyday sacrifices in my cocoa (skim milk, powdered chocolate) if I’m not drinking it every day.
Flash back to sitting in Florence last fall, drinking a 6 euro hot chocolate while looking out at the Duomo. Maybe I shouldn’t be comparing the two at all, but the chocolate in Florence was a moment wholly about indulgences. Outrageous price, but an outrageous setting and outrageous taste. I believe in treating oneself. Rather than having little goodies here and there, save up your “goodie points” and use them on something special. A decadent cocktail, dessert made with heavy cream, or new pair of fancy shoes. Or all three.
This chocolate bread pudding capitalizes on a heavenly mixture of cream, chocolate, spices, and Grand Marnier. It was the first time I’d ever made a bread pudding, and I have to admit that I didn’t make it perfectly. I used a baguette, so my bread slices were too small. I left the crusts on, which was okay, but there’s almost as much crust as bread. My slices weren’t overlapping or submerged enough, so they floated to the top as the pudding cooked underneath.
But it doesn’t matter, because the taste of this chocolate bread pudding is exquisit. The bread is melty, the chocolate is creamy, and the pudding isn’t overwhelmingly sweet. Rather, it’s decadent. A delicious mistake. And hopefully yours will be equally delicious, minus the small errors. I’ve made a few changes in the recipe below, but if you follow it as written, yours should be okay.
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened
10-12 slices (1/3 inch thick) French or Italian bread (about half of a 1-pound loaf)
1/3 cup dark raisins
2 cups whole milk (or 1-3/4 cups skim milk + 4 tbsp heavy cream)
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp grand marnier (optional)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
powdered sugar, for garnish
Lightly grease a 7 x 11 inch baking dish. Using a double boiler (a heat-safe bowl over a small saucepan with boiling water), melt the chocolate over low heat, stirring frequently until just melted. Immediately remove from the heat.
Generously butter one side of each piece of bread. Lay the slices buttered sides up in the baking dish. Sprinkle the raisins over the bread. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the milk, cream, grand marnier, and sugar over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until hot but not boiling (small bubbles will be around just the edge of the pot). Remove from the heat. Whisk about 1 cup of the hot cream mixture into the chocolate until well blended. Then, whisk the chocolate mixture into the cream mixture. (You may just want to stop baking here and drink the hot chocolate. I almost did. Okay, just slurp a few delicious spoonfuls and continue on.)
In a medium bowl using a fork, beat together the eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla until well blended. Beat about 1 cup of the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Then, add the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring until well blended. Slowly pour the chocolate mixture over the bread. Lay a large sheet of baking parchment or wax paper over the top and press down to keep the bread submerged. Let the pudding stand for 15 minute. Meanwhile, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Remove the parchment paper.
Carefully set the dish into a slightly larger roasting pan. Place on the oven rack. Add 3/4 inch hot water to the pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Bake until the pudding puffs slightly and the center feels set when lightly tapped, 10-12 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 15 minutes. Before serving, lightly dust powdered sugar over the pudding.
The pudding will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat before serving.