While collecting the recipes for The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine cookbook, I decided to include some uses of leftover bread and of course bread pudding is on the list. My editor, Laura Christman, asked to include the recipe for the chocolate bread pudding she had had when the East Meets West catering company did their holiday party at Harvard Common Press. She took home the leftovers and proceeded to eat the pud out of hand, cold, the next day. We all love when food is so tasty it becomes, well, memorable. I like to have a special knock-out dessert large enough for company or a potluck.
This ultra-rich bread pudding is from Greg Topham, executive chef of East Meets West, an upscale custom catering company in Boston. Greg uses a recipe he first had when he was ten years old and this was a peasant-style dessert made by a Polish woman who came to live in his home. Greg went on to train at the New England Culinary Academy and work with Todd English in Cambridge before running his own kitchen. East Meets West makes chocolate bread pudding, which is gooey rather than eggy, during the winter holidays for clients. The chocolate you use is very important to the integrity of the pudding; Greg uses Valhrona bittersweet and Bensdorp unsweetened cocoa (both available from Amazon.com). I left this recipe exactly as Greg dictated it to me.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on the side, although it needs no garnishing. Day-old you can eat large, cold squares out of hand, or gently reheated in the microwave.
Three 1 1/2- to 2-pound loaves day-old brioche, crusts removed and cut into 1-inch cubes (if the loaves are medium-sized, I use 3 loaves, if they are large, 2)
2 cups whole milk
2 cups granulated sugar
10 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups cold heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup granulated or raw sugar, for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Place the bread cubes on a large baking sheet. Toast until golden brown, 15 minutes. Combine half of the chocolate and milk in the top of a double boiler and melt the chocolate over simmering water that does not touch the bottom of the pan. Stir with a whisk. Set the remaining 1 1/2-pounds of chopped chocolate aside.
2. Butter a 2-gallon ceramic baking dish (Greg uses large ceramic roasting pans available from Crate and Barrel) or two 4-quart deep casseroles (which is what I use-my ceramic roasting pans). Place the toasted bread cubes in a single layer in the casserole.
3. In the work bowl of a heavy duty electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip together the sugar, eggs, cocoa, and vanilla on medium speed until smooth, creamy, and thick. It will coat your finger in a thick layer and form very slowly dissolving ribbons that fall back into the bowl when the whisk is lifted out of the mixture. With a large balloon whisk, stir together the egg mixture, the heavy cream, and the warm melted chocolate mixture. Pour over the bread cubes, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes to soak. (The pudding can be refrigerated up to 8 hours before continuing at this point.)
4. Preheat the oven to 325º. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate into the pudding and press down to make sure all the ingredients are soaked with the liquid. Sprinkle the top with the diced butter. Sprinkle lightly with the sugar.
5. Cover the pudding with foil that has been sprayed with butter-flavored cooking spray to prevent sticking. Bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the custard is set like a quiche and it wiggles slightly (a knife inserted into the center may not come out clean because of the pools of melted chocolate). Serve warm or room temperature, or reheat the next day in a 200º oven for 20 minutes.
Excerpted from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2002, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.