Happy New Year, all! Our gathering last night was admittedly low-key (funny how one’s desire to interact with drunken throngs of people decreases with age), but we still know how to celebrate. After cocktails aplenty and a fabulous roast chicken, we enjoyed an amazing dessert: White and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with Irish Cream Sauce from the November 2003 issue of Bon Appetit. I’ve written about my love of bread pudding several times before; I’ll choose it over almost any other dessert whenever it’s available. I have my favorites (Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe’s Sticky Date and Organic Hefeweizen Pudding and Upstream Brewing Company’s Caramel Bread Pudding) and my disappointments (Trinity Hall’s Bread Pudding – don’t bother!), but I’ve only actually made bread pudding once before. The results were good last time, but the results last night were phenomenal.
Making the bread pudding was super easy. First, I made the sauce. In a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, I brought 2 cups of whipping cream, 6 tablespoons of Bailey’s, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to a boil, stirring often. I mixed 2 teaspoons of cornstarch and 2 teaspoons of water together in a small bowl and whisked it into the cream mixture. I boiled the mixture until the sauce thickened, whisking constantly. (The recipe said this would take about 3 minutes, but I needed 4, probably because things boil at a lower temperature up here.) Once the sauce had thickened, I removed it from the heat and let it cool. After about 30 minutes, I poured it through a sieve to remove the skin (optional and not in the original recipe), transferred it to an airtight container, and chilled it in the refrigerator for 2 hours. (The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead.)
When the sauce was adequately chilled and I was ready to finish the bread pudding, I cut 12 ounces of French bread into 3/4-inch cubes. (Important: The recipe says 14 cups of bread, or about 12 ounces. My 12 ounces was more like 11 or 12 cups, and I felt like the bread-to-custard ratio was perfect. Some of the recipe reviewers complained that the pudding was too dry; my guess is that they went with the full 14 cups of bread. Try to measure your bread by weight if possible.) I also chopped 6 ounces of semisweet chocolate and 6 ounces of white chocolate. (Keep in mind that the chocolate chunks will translate into chocolate bites in the bread pudding. Chop the chocolate finely if you want smaller bites of chocolate; use a coarse chop for bigger chocolate bites.) I put the bread cubes and the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and tossed to combine.
Using an electric mixer, I beat together 4 large eggs, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla in a separate large bowl. Gradually, I beat in 1 1/2 cups of whipping cream (more cream – can you believe it?) and 1/2 cup of whole milk. I added the cream mixture to the bread mixture, stirring everything together to combine, and let it stand for 30 minutes. (I tossed it gently and occasionally during the 30 minutes although the recipe didn’t say that was necessary.)
Once the 30 minutes had passed, I buttered a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish (I chose butter over cooking spray) and transferred the bread mixture to the dish, spreading it evenly. I drizzled the mixture with another 1/2 cup of whipping cream (!) and sprinkled it with 2 tablespoons of sugar. I baked the pudding at 350F for 1 hour and cooled it for about 20 minutes before serving (drizzled with the sauce, of course!).
If you like bread pudding, Bailey’s, and chocolate, it truly doesn’t get any better than this. The bread pudding was perfectly moist yet it wasn’t overly dense or heavy, and the crackly top from the cream and sugar sprinkle was amazing. The pudding tastes fantastic on its own, but adding the sauce makes the dish a complete knockout. It stands up to the very best bread puddings I’ve tried, restaurant or homemade. It’s far from noncaloric (4 cups of cream – yikes!), but if you’re going to indulge, this is a great way to do it. I’ll be making this one again for book club on Thursday, and I have to say I cannot wait. (Thanks for passing on a terrific recipe, Hilary!)
TIPS: When you make the sauce, use a saucepan with relatively high sides. Mine boiled up considerably after I added the cornstarch and water, and I just barely managed to keep it in check.
Also, I was worried about using French bread in this recipe because I usually like bread puddings made with brioche or challah, but the French bread soaked up the egg mixture beautifully. I did buy French bread that came in a closed plastic bag instead of an open paper bag, so maybe this made a difference.