Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Chocolate Bourbon Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is the beef stew of desserts. You can throw in all of your leftovers and still end up with a dish worthy of dinner guests. Faced with a stale loaf of bread and an appetite, I decided to make a chocolate bread pudding one night last week. The following recipe is an adaptation of the "Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce" from 2004's The Best of Fine Cooking: Comfort Food.

Chocolate Bourbon Bread Pudding
One short baguette or half a long baguette, cut into one-inch cubes
2 tablespoons of bourbon
4 eggs
2 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
Seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla pod
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup of milk-chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter six individual custard dishes or one large ceramic casserole dish. Whisk the eggs and cream together with the sugar, spices, vanilla seeds, and salt. Thoroughly stir in the bread cubes and chocolate pieces. Allow the mixture to sit for fifteen minutes.

Pour the bread-pudding mixture into the prepared dish (or individual dishes). Create a water bath by placing the dish (or dishes) in a roasting pan and adding enough hot water to come halfway up the sides. Carefully place the roasting pan in the oven and bake the bread pudding until the top is brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Active Ingredients:
Since the bourbon provides a strong kick of flavor, I decided to use a mild, creamy milk chocolate instead of an overly powerful dark chocolate. Look for a milk chocolate with a relatively high cacao content (at least 30%) and few or no artificial ingredients. The original recipe called for half a cup of golden raisins cooked in the bourbon before they were added to the pudding mixture, and any number or dried fruits or nuts would be welcome additions here.

The recipe works best if the bread is a few days old and a bit dried out--that helps it to absorb the custard without becoming gummy. If you're using fresh bread, place the cubes in a 200F oven for a few minutes. You may also allow the bread to sit in the egg-and-cream mixture for up to four hours before baking, but it should be covered and refrigerated during that time.


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