by Stephanie Zonis
6 to 8 servings
Another old-fashioned, homey dessert, this may be served warm or cold. If you serve it warm, a good vanilla ice cream is an ideal accompaniment, or you can substitute creme anglaise or lightly sweetened whipped cream. Fresh raspberries would be lovely with this, too. A slightly dryer, crusty top layer with a more custardy bottom, this version is not too sweet and has plenty of chocolate flavor. It will keep for a day or two and can be warmed gently in the microwave (on medium power) before serving, but it doesn't freeze.
My favorite bread for making this is a good challah, but that's hard to find where I live, so often I end up using a good-quality, firm-textured white bread. While I love whole grain bread, I don't think it's the right thing to use here. In any case, you'll need approximately 20 to 24 ounces of bread (before the crust is trimmed). I haven't tried making this with croissants, but it would probably be delicious—just don't try to trim off the crust, or you'll end up with no bread to work with! If your bread isn't a little stale, trim, cut, and measure as directed 4 to 8 hours before making the dessert. Place the bread on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Cover very loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature.
6 cups, packed, of 1" cubes of
slightly stale bread, trimmed of crust
4 squares (4 ozs.) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sifted or strained unsweetened
Dutch process cocoa powder
4 eggs, graded "large", plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla
If bread is not slightly stale, see introduction to recipe and leave at room temperature, loosely covered, 4 to 8 hours. Butter a 1-1/2 liter soufflé dish (mine is white porcelain and measures 7-1/2" top diameter by just under 3-3/4" high). Have ready a metal baking pan that is longer, wider, and shallower than your soufflé dish, and into which your soufflé dish will fit without touching the sides (I use a 13" by 9" by 2" baking pan). If this baking pan is aluminum, sprinkle a bit of cream of tartar into the bottom so that it won't discolor during baking. Cut a circle of foil large enough to cover the soufflé dish with about an inch of overlap on all sides. Place the slightly stale bread cubes into the buttered soufflé dish, compacting them as necessary to make them fit (the dish will be very full—OK). Set all aside.
In small heatproof bowl, place chopped chocolate. Heat cream over low heat until very hot, stirring occasionally. Add about 2/3 of hot cream to chocolate. Place this mixture over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl); stir or whisk often until chocolate is melted. Gradually stir or whisk in remaining cream. Remove from heat and hot water.
In two quart, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive pot, combine sugars, cocoa, and salt. With large spoon, mix thoroughly, pressing out any lumps with back of spoon. Add eggs and yolk; by hand, beat in. Stir in melted chocolate mixture, which will still be warm. Heat milk until very hot over low heat, stirring occasionally; gradually add to egg mixture, stirring constantly.
Place pot over low heat; stir constantly for 3 minutes. During this time, custard will not thicken or become hot—OK. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
Gradually and slowly spoon custard into bread, using a large spoon or a small ladle. The idea here is to saturate as many bread cubes as much as possible. Take your time in doing this. Set filled soufflé dish aside for 15 minutes.
During this time, adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bring to a boil enough water to fill your larger, shallower metal baking dish to a depth of 1 inch. After 15 minutes, place larger, shallower metal baking dish on oven rack; cover bottom with a thin layer of boiling water. Carefully place filled soufflé dish into water. Cover with foil circle, folding excess down over dish. Carefully add enough water to fill metal baking dish to a depth of 1inch. Close oven door.
Bake, covered, 25 minutes. Remove foil; bake 10 minutes longer. To test for doneness, stick a sharp knife into center of bread pudding about halfway down, then remove. Knife will emerge only partly clean; the blade should still have a slight smear of custard on it. Using good potholders, remove soufflé dish from pan of water—BE CAREFUL!!! The soufflé dish will be heavy, slippery, and hot!
Allow the pudding to stand at room temperature 30 to 40 minutes before serving, or chill and serve cold. Eat within two days of making.
Copyright © 1999 Francesca Chocolate Productions. All Rights Reserved.
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This page created January 1999
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