Why It Works
- The custard base is made with two forms of chocolate as well as espresso powder, which accentuates the chocolate flavor.
- The bread cubes are soaked for an extended period, ensuring they fully absorb the chocolate custard.
- Chunks of bittersweet chocolate are nestled among the custard-soaked bread cubes, which form pockets of molten chocolate in the oven.
- Whipped cream moderates the richness of the bread pudding and slowly melts once added, creating a sauce.
I should warn you up front. This bread pudding is not the kind of dessert that you should serve to guests. That is, if you want to keep conversations rattling along. Instead, it's the kind of dessert that'll turn the dinner table into a spectacle of silence. Debates and musings will suddenly come to a halt and the only audible sound will be spoons clinking into bowls. Chocolate and bread is already an obscenely divine combo (think pain au chocolat), but incorporating them into a warm custardy dessert makes the result downright dangerous.
When you marry soul-soothing bread pudding with the absorbing qualities of chocolate, what you have on your hands is an experience that doesn't have room for anyone else except for you and your helping of pudding. No socializing, no talking—just close your eyes and savor.
Most chocolate bread puddings don't live up to my high chocolate standards. Sometimes it's just a handful of chocolate chips tossed into the mix, or the custard is like a wimpy chocolate milk. That's not the case with this recipe. This bread pudding raises the chocolate bar by starting with a decadent hot chocolate base of cocoa, milk, cream, brown sugar, and melted bittersweet chocolate. A touch of espresso powder heightens your perception of the chocolate, and a pinch of cinnamon rounds it out with the flavor of a Mexican hot chocolate.
Rather than toasting the bread (a common technique to encourage the bread to soak up as much liquid as possible), I find that softer fresh or partially stale bread works better to soak up the thick chocolate liquid. After the chewy chunks of French bread are fully drenched, even more bits of chocolate are stuffed into the crevices before the pudding goes in for the bake.
As you cradle your bowl filled with warm pudding, wafts of roasted chocolate float up and you'll begin to get transfixed. I dare you to take it slow as you sink your spoon into the dark chocolaty tufts of moist bread and gooey chocolate. And I know you'll make sure to get a bit of the crunchy top crust. A dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream spooned on top pleasantly cuts the rich chocolate and melts into the pudding like a sauce.
So for that dinner party next week with the loud-mouthed neighbors? You're now armed with my secret culinary weapon for peace and quiet.
For the Bread Pudding (see note):
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large eggs
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
12 ounces French bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (see notes)
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
For the Whipped Cream:
12 ounces heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with butter; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, granulated sugar, and salt until lightened, about 30 seconds; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, whisk brown sugar with cocoa to combine. Whisk in milk and cream and heat over medium heat until warm. Whisk in bittersweet chocolate, espresso powder, and cinnamon until chocolate is melted. Whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until combined. Whisk in vanilla extract.
Add bread cubes to chocolate mixture and gently toss to evenly moisten bread. Let sit to allow bread to thoroughly saturate, 30 to 45 minutes, occasionally pressing bread gently with rubber spatula. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325°F (165°C).
Gently pour bread mixture into prepared baking dish. Tuck chopped semisweet chocolate into bread pudding, evenly distributing. Bake until pudding is just set in center, 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool about 30 minutes before serving.
In the chilled bowl of a standing mixer fitted with whip attachment, whip cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until soft peak. Serve with bread pudding.
This recipe can be easily halved. Use a 9-inch by 9-inch pan and decrease baking time to approximately 25 minutes.
I like the chewiness that the crust offers, but if a softer bread pudding is desired, trim the bottom crust from the bread.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 12 to 15|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 30g||39%|
|Saturated Fat 18g||89%|
|Total Carbohydrate 44g||16%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||14%|
|Total Sugars 26g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||1%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|