I am no stranger to bread pudding. It is something I have made on countless occasions while working in the baking and pastry field. At Sofra we make a special brown butter bread pudding on weekends that people swoon for. While at Henrietta's we made a chocolate bread pudding with a banana rum caramel sauce. At Bouchon we made hotel pans of chocolate bread pudding and would cut them into cylinder shapes and top with a canele of caramel whipped cream. So much bread pudding in such a short career (now almost 4 years).
Since I've had so much exposure to bread pudding I wasn't planning on making this recipe. Also, the truth is bread pudding doesn't really do it for me. I'm not a huge custard fan, and I usually find it to be a bit boring. I decided to make this because I had a little bit of stale bread left over from the Oatmeal Bulgur bread I made on Sunday. I couldn't stand to see this bread go to waste, so I decided to make a very small batch based on Dorie's recipe. I made 1/6 of the recipe and changed it a bit. I didn't have whole milk or heavy cream, so I subbed skim and evaporated milk. Also, I read in the P&Q section of TWD that it wasn't chocolaty enough, so I added a little cocoa powder. Here's the recipe as I made it. For the actual recipe was Dorie would make visit Lauren of Upper East Side Chronicle. She picked this TWD recipe.
Extra Chocolaty Chocolate Bread Pudding
2 ounces of cubed bread
A small handful of dried cherries
½ cup of skim milk
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsps Evaporated whole milk
1 scant Tbsp Valhrona cocoa powder
1 large egg
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsps sugar
Put the cubed bread and cherries in a bowl large enough to hold about 2 cups. Bring skim milk, evaporated milk and cocoa powder just to a boil in a small sauce pan whisking frequently. Once the liquids come to a boil whisk together the sugar and egg. In a very slow stream pour the hot liquid into the egg sugar mixture whisking constantly. Once all your liquid is in the bowl. Strain the hot liquid onto the chocolate. (Side note: I have no idea why she doesn't say to strain the custard, as a rule of thumb it's a very good idea to always strain custards). Whisk the custard/chocolate mixture till all the chocolate melts. Pour the mixture onto the cubed bread and cherries.
Let sit for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring some water to a boil for your water bath. Carefully take your soaked bread cubes and cherries out of the custard putting it into a ramekin (I used an 8 oz ramekin). Try not to man handle your cubes too much or else they will disintegrate. Pour your custard remaining custard up to the line in the ramekin (not the very top).
Place your ramekin into a larger dish that has tall sides and is oven safe (I used a larger ramekin). Pour your hot water into the larger dish to create a water bath.
Carefully put your dishes into the oven and bake for 33 minutes (till a knife comes out clean).
When the bread pudding was in the oven, I realized the recipe didn't call for salt. I'm a huge fan of salt, so I decided to make a salted caramel to go along side the pudding. Unfortunately, I didn't measure it out, but essentially all I did was I put about 3/4 cup of sugar in a pan and brought it to the caramel stage. Then I poured in some evaporated milk (maybe ¼ cup), added a touch of butter and a very healthy amount of fleur de sel. Whisked all that together, and there was my salted caramel sauce.
We ate the bread pudding and caramel sauce warm. They were very nice together, but I think next time I would also add some vanilla ice cream to even things out. Will I make this again? Sure, if I have left-over bread. I think the Oatmeal Bulgur bread was perfect in this, there was no hint of "healthiness" (from the bread) in this chocolate bread pudding. It was all about indulgent chocolate, custard and caramel.