I've been on a bit of a bread pudding kick lately. It got me thinking... how fun would it be to share a different bread pudding recipe every month for a year (maybe longer) and call it The Bread Pudding of the Month Club. It would seriously be the gift that keeps on giving! I've already created a list of a dozen bread pudding variations to span the entire year, season to season. I will include the ones from last year as part of the Club because they are so good, they deserve to be included... so get ready for a year filled with creative and delicious bread puddings. Your world is about to get rocked :)
The Bread Pudding of the Month Club:
November 2010 - Purple Sweet Potato Bread Pudding with Cardamom Whipped Cream
December 2010 - Leek Bread Pudding
January 2011 - Chocolate Bread Pudding
Bread pudding is sooooo easy to make, and its incredibly versatile, as you can use different kinds of bread and flavorings to literally make countless varieties of bread pudding with the same basic ingredients and just a few twists. I had leftover bread from the leek bread pudding at Christmas, so I decided to make some sweet bread pudding the following week, with my super stale leftover bread. I'm a huge chocoholic, so January's bread pudding would have to utilize rich, dark, bittersweet chocolate. What better way to ring in the New Year! Pure ecstasy!
I have some high quality chocolate couverture coins (Williams-Sonoma sells these in small boxes that are convenient for home cooks) that make it really easy to make chocolate desserts because they are all uniform in size and melt easily without having to get out a cutting board and chop chocolate. But you can always get chocolate bars instead and chop them up. The results will be the same as long as your chocolate is good! I kept the garnish really simple on this bread pudding, no additional whipped cream or ice cream necessary. Just a dusting of snow-like confectioner's sugar for a lovely contrast to the deep brown chocolate bread pudding. Bon appetit!
Chocolate Bread Pudding
Unsalted butter, for baking dish
5 cups stale* 1/2-inch bread cubes (such as Italian, challah, or brioche)
2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (72% cocoa is good)
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
Place the oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch (2 quart) baking dish and arrange the stale bread cubes in the dish.
Scald the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove the milk from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until all the chocolate melts and dissolves into the hot milk. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl with a whisk, and whisk in a little hot chocolate milk at a time into the eggs, tempering the eggs so they gently heat up and do not scramble. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread cubes in the baking dish, pressing down with the back of a spoon or your hands and making sure that all the bread gets submerged and starts soaking in the custard.
Soak for 15 minutes and then put the baking dish in the oven. Bake until the filling is set and the top is crusted, about 30 to 35 minutes. Serve hot, warm, room temperature, or cold, dusted with confectioners' sugar.
*If your bread isn't very stale, cut it into cubes and allow the bread cubes to dry out at room temperature all day or overnight. Alternatively, lightly toast them on a sheet pan in a 350 degree F oven until dry, about 10 to 15 minutes.