Chocolate is a no-brainer for Valentine’s Day but what is it going to be? Candy? Cake? Ice Cream? None of the above? How about an intensely chocolate bread pudding?
Oddly, until this week I had never made chocolate bread pudding, even though I have tasted quite a few very fine examples. The other day, I visited in my friend Kathy’s kitchen, where she was assembling the one that follows. The chocolate, cream, sugar, and egg mixture looked so dark and rich, and when Kathy put half of it with the cubed bread in the baking dish, then topped it with a bunch of chocolate chips, I swooned and immediately formed an intense desire to make it.
Her copy of the recipe was torn from a magazine years and years ago. I found the same recipe on the Internet, contributed to a popular recipe website by a user in 2008.
As I began to give this recipe a try, all kinds of variations occurred to me. Since the recipe needs brandy, then consider using coffee brandy or some other flavored brandy like blackberry or cherry flavored, both of which would be good with chocolate.
The recipe calls for chocolate chips; since chocolate chips come in milk chocolate, semi-sweet, and mint, those all offer possibilities. Or perhaps you might like using part chocolate and part butterscotch or peanut butter chips. You can even consider white chocolate chips. If you don’t have chips, you can break up baking chocolate squares or chocolate bars and use those.
The other notable part of this recipe is the cinnamon whipped cream. I think cinnamon whipped cream would be wonderful on lots of other desserts like baked apples, or apple cake or crisp, or pumpkin desserts, or Indian pudding or gingerbread. Flavoring the whipped cream with instant coffee crystals or a tablespoon or three of cocoa powder would be good.
The original recipe says to use an eight-by-eight baking dish, which I don’t have. I used a soufflé dish. It also calls for two and a quarter cups of half ‘n half. I buy it by the pint, two cups, and am not the sort that has a quart of it sitting around. A quarter cup difference hardly matters but if you worry, add milk. I saved the crust from the bread to make bread crumbs to use another day.
There are two spells in the pudding assembly process that require mixing, then waiting. That means you might be able to work this around other activities. In fact, you can make this a day ahead, cover it and refrigerate it to bake on the day you want to serve it, and since Valentine’s Day is on Thursday, most of us will have to work and so a little do-ahead is a boon.
The recipe makes six generous servings, probably enough for twelve modest servings, and is reasonably easy to halve.
It’s wonderfully chocolaty!
Chocolate Brandy Bread Pudding
2 cups half and half
1/3 cup brandy
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups firm white bread, about 8-9 slices, crustless, cut into half inch cubes
Butter your baking dish. Bring the half-and-half to a simmer and add the brandy and heat them together about three minutes. Add one cup of chocolate chips, let it sit briefly then whisk the hot cream and chips together. Whisk in the brown sugar and cinnamon. Let cool.
Whisk in the eggs and vanilla, sink the cubed bread in the chocolate mixture. Let that sit for about thirty minutes. Pour half of the bread mixture into your baking dish, sprinkle on two cups of chips, then top with the rest of the bread mixture. You can refrigerate it at this point to bake later.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for thirty-five to forty-five minutes, or until it is puffed and firm in the center.
Cinnamon Whipped Cream
2 cups of whipping cream
2 tablespoons of sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
Whip the cream until it is frothy then gradually add the sugar and cinnamon, whipping until you achieve firm peaks. Serve with the bread pudding.