CHOCOLATE EVERYWHERE. That is the Internet this week. Complain not I, and far be it from me to snub such a worthy tradition. Enhanced with liquor and buckets of delicious fat, no less.
You can even make your own chocolate. I have not embarked on that particular mission yet, and I’m not sure that I will. Seems like a lot of time/effort/cost for something that is an international product anyway. Maybe if cacao starts growing wherever I am.
Not one of my typical vegetable semi-healthy (I’m going to be honest, I’m not a health fanatic or a vegetarian, I just like veggies. Not that there is anything wrong with either of those two categories of being) recipe here, folks. It’s mid-February and you need to indulge your sensibilities.
So, bread pudding. The beauty of this is that it makes use of old bread, in case you forgot to freeze half that loaf you made last week, or someone came by and left you extra bread from something that you couldn’t eat fast enough. Or, you could buy a loaf expressly for this purpose, cut it into chunks, and watch impatiently as it dries out enough to soak in eggs and cream and turn magically into rich, delicious custard smothered in deep chocolate (you don’t actually have to wait impatiently. You can just toast them in the oven. But, I’ve heard that pleasure comes more from anticipation anyway, so may as well take the time).
People sometimes ask me, “Are you a cook or a baker?” Like many other areas of my life, I have yet to figure this out, and shall continue to (naïvely?) ask, “Can’t I be both?” I have been getting more and more into cooking recently (evidently), but I got my start in baking. And there is something magical about the way something can transform fantastically in a hot oven.
There are many things you can do with stale bread. But this is the best, because it is chocolate. And not just chocolate, a deep, rich, thick, creamy, dark, warm, soft chocolate. I want more, now.
Recipe from NPR. I have explored a number and this is the greatest.
Chocolate Rum Raisin Bread Pudding 1/2 cup golden raisins 1/4 (+...)cup dark rum Butter for pan 2 cups heavy cream 1 cup milk 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped 6 eggs, room temperature 1 cup brown sugar 2 teaspoons vanilla 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, or more chopped chocolate 1 stale 10-ounce baguette (or whatever, although I'd avoid super seedy bread), cut roughly in 1/2-1 inch size chunks
Pour rum over raisins in a small bowl and set aside for a while (side note: this is a great trick for, well, everything. Best oatmeal raisin cookies EVER). Butter a 9×13 baking dish (size doesn’t matter as much here, unlike items like cakes, so use what you have, it will somehow fit. If you have extra you can always cook mini puddings in muffin tins or little bowls).
Heat up milk and cream together until quite hot (microwave or stove, your preference). Add chocolate (or pour over chocolate—I tend to heat up the milk in a Pyrex measuring cup and put the chocolate in a bowl; that way I only have a couple dishes to wash), let sit for a minute or so, then stir so chocolate is melted. Mix in eggs, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon and stir quickly (make sure the mixture is not hot enough to cook the eggs—you don’t want them to curdle—and stir immediately. If you are worried, mix eggs, sugar, etc. separately first). Stir in raisins and rum and chocolate chunks.
Place bread chunks in pan, and pour the mixture over top, trying to get as much contact with the bread as possible. Let sit for a while (at least an hour), squishing it down every now and again so that all the bread gets soaked. It will expand considerably. I also moved it around a bit to try to get an even distribution of chocolate chips.
Preheat oven to 325ºF, and when both oven and bread are ready, bake for 45 min-1 hour, until custard is more or less set and the top is crispy. A knife inserted in the pudding should come out streaky but not liquidy. Serve warm, with whipped cream (spiked with rum), if desired. When you eat leftovers, I recommend warming it up (microwave is fine) and dousing with rum before consuming.
On an entirely unrelated note, don’t make these mistakes with cheese!