I first came across a recipe for a bread pudding going through the pages of Cosmopolitan, on a night flight from London to Athens; I was tired, cranky and super hungry. But flipping through my favourite flight read, there it was, the perfect mood changer: a dessert made with bread, sugar, milk, dried fruit and nuts. I mean, what’s not to be giddy about?
The recipe stuck with me and a couple days later, on an early winter morning in a cold kitchen, I gave bread pudding a chance- half asleep and without a recipe. It was a hot mess. Literally. Soggy and dry all at once, quite pathetic looking and not tasting like much. Of course I devoured it, but I was deeply offended- I usually get along perfectly with all desserts, what exactly was the problem there, huh?
Since then, I’ve tried to stay away from bread pudding; however (and I’m sure that’s because it’s not in the stars for me to find a dessert I don’t like) a while back, I tasted the best one I’ve even had in a little fish & chips restaurant in central London: the custard was perfectly combined with the chunky bread, there were few sultanas here and there, a hint of alcohol and hot cream poured on top.
And just like that, bread pudding was back on my radar. I’ve tried a couple versions, always following these guidelines from Food52. In fact, the recipe for the last breakfast post of this week is exactly based on this guide: stale white bread, eggs, milk and vanilla sugar for a creamy, thick custard (adjust the eggs and milk according to the texture you want your pudding to have). The glamour effect is significantly elevated with the addition of a shot of booze (I went with brandy, which I love using in desserts) and big chunks of Valhrona chocolate: very dark, so perfectly paired with the brandy, and with cocoa nibs, which are not only crazy delicious, but also add a bit of crunchiness to the mix. Creamy, a little boozy and a lot chocolatey on the inside and soft and more chocolatey on the outside. Bread pudding, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
8 slices stale white bread, cut in large chunks
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup vanilla sugar (I used the one I make, by inserting used vanilla pods into a sugar jar; alternatively, you can use plain white sugar & 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
1 1/2 tablespoon booze (any kind you like, as long as it’s not too fruity or white)
a pinch of salt
3/4 cups chocolate chunks (any kind you like, but I would definitely recommend this one)
for the baking dish: about 1 tablespoon unsalted butter & about 2 tablespoons white sugar (optional)
to serve: double cream (optional)
Butter a medium sized baking tray and sprinkle sugar on top. Set aside.
Beat the eggs with the milk and sugar and booze (and vanilla extract, if using) until well incorporated and pale. Add 1/2 cup chocolate chunks and stir well.
Arrange the bread slices on the baking tray as neatly as desired and pour the custard over, making sure to coat all the slices. Let sit for about 30’, so the bread absorbs the custard.
Well in advance, preheat the oven to 180C.
Scatter the remaining chocolate chunks over the pudding and put in the oven for 35-40′, or until the custard is se.
Take out of the oven, let cool slightly and serve, generous drizzling the pieces with double cream (optional).