Wednesday, January 15, 2014

In Defense of a Great Dessert: Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding

Back in September I wrote about my birthday dinner at one of my favorite seafood restaurants from back home on the gulf coast. My whole family was in attendance.  We talked, ate and drank until we could take no more. It was a wonderful night.

The only black eye on our delicious meal was the bread pudding that we ordered for my birthday dessert. It is a house specialty at this particular restaurant, so to say that we were disappointed in what we got is an understatement. It is usually so good. I'll have to give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk this up to being an off night.

After taking her disappointing spoonful, my daughter happened to make the comment that she never really liked bread pudding anyway and hadn't ever had a good one. Well I couldn't really figure out where that came from because through the years I have made some pretty darn good bread puddings. I guess she never tasted them because she couldn't possibly have been talking about any of mine.

I promised her that night that I would revisit a couple of bread pudding recipes and post them here on my blog for her to make some day. My first recipe was for a savory pudding that was just delicious. It is perfect for any meal of the day. Loved it with a green salad for lunch or dinner or a fruit salad for brunch.

Today I'm sharing a recipe that I know my daughter is really going to like. It is my version of a Delia Smith recipe for chocolate bread and butter pudding. I've kind of simplified Delia's recipe a bit by using cocoa powder instead of bar chocolate, and I promise you it is still very good. The only thing that is non-negotiable in this recipe is the time it needs to set before cooking. Without enough absorption time, there will be white bread in the center and it just won't be at its optimum fudginess when you serve it and that would probably be a chocolate related crime.

Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding

This is a great recipe for a dinner party because it can and should be assembled 1 to 2 days before baking. You can put this together on Thursday or Friday before a Saturday night supper and take the pressure off yourself for one course at least.

10 slices thick sliced white sandwich bread
2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons dark rum or Kahlua
6 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
1 pinch of cinnamon (optional)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Remove crusts from the bread. Then cut each slice into four triangles; set aside until ready to use.

Place the whipping cream, rum or Kahlua, cocoa, sugar, salt, butter and cinnamon in a heavy bottomed sauce pan which is set over medium heat.  Stirring constantly, heat the contents until the sugar and cocoa are dissolved and incorporated into the cream; remove from the heat; set aside.

Whisk the eggs and vanilla extract together in a large spouted bowl. Whisk in about 1/2 of a cup of the hot chocolate mixture into the eggs to temper them. While continuing to whisk, pour the remaining chocolate into the eggs; set aside.

Spray an 9" square baking dish or a pan of the equivalent size with non-stick cooking spray. Give the chocolate mixture another good stirring and pour enough in the bottom of the baking dish to come to about 1/2" up the sides, reserving the rest.

Arrange the bread triangles into rows, overlapping them as you do, on top of the chocolate in the baking dish.  Gently pour the remaining chocolate over the top of the bread, completely covering the tops of the bread. If necessary, gently push the bread down with the back of a spoon or fork to cover with chocolate being careful not to compress the bread.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for at least an hour and up to 2, before transferring to the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 and up to 48 hours before cooking.

To cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and bake in the preheated oven on the middle shelf for 25 - 35 minutes or until the top is brown and crunchy, but the bottom is still fudgy and glossy.  Be careful not to overcook as this will make a dry pudding. Let pudding stand for approximately 10 minutes before serving with cold heavy cream poured over or vanilla ice cream and lightly toasted pecans.

Serves 6 - 8 very happy diners.

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