Sometime ago, one of my friends invited us to their home for an outdoor Paella Festival. It was intended to be a mini-version of the one’s they hold in Spain, only it was held in Pittsburgh, PA. Close enough I suppose. We had two very different paellas, prepared by two very talented chefs: one of them a food editor for the Post Gazette, our Pittsburgh newspaper. The other chef, and host for the day, was my friend Mike, a spectacular guy and professional chef that prepares the most amazing food for private parties. I’ve worked beside him a couple of times, and I learn something magical every time. The day was a little chilly and gloomy, and it rained for a short time, but we had a nice tent to protect us from the elements, a warm campfire, a couple of portable propane-fired warmers, plenty of wine and beer and great company to share the afternoon.The paella’s were spectacular. Mike’s was a ‘Cajun style’ paella, made with his own homemade smoked andouille sausage, a deeply carmelized tomato soffrito, and sautéed shrimp added to the paella pan for the final pairing of flavors, textures and eye appeal. The other paella was of the more traditional style, prepared with a lighter, more delicate soffrito, chicken, spanish chorizo, shrimp, clams and mussels. Both were made with homemade chicken stock and a nice big dash of saffron to authenticate the dishes. Frankly, anything made with saffron is amazingly special. Cooking the paella on outdoor fires gave us all a chance to get a flavor for the way it was prepared back in the ‘old days’. They were terrific! Here’s some pictures.
While our two chefs prepped the paella, the guests were expected to bring appetizers, salads, something to go with the main course, or a dessert.
I had been itching to prepare a bread pudding I had been working on for almost a year. I had experimented with it quite a bit, and I thought I finally had it right. I had literally researched 10’s of recipes, read reviews, tried different ingredients and tested different combinations of flavors to cobble together a very special, uncommon bread pudding. I knew this would be a discerning group of friends–they would be honest about the bread pudding, but appreciative of the effort, even if it didn’t turn out perfect.
So let me tell you about this Bread Pudding. If you love chocolate, you are going to love this dessert!
I call this recipe “My Killer Chocolate Bread Pudding”. That’s because, after My Kathy had her first bite, she stated “she would kill for it”, and proceeded to take physical possession of the remaining leftovers. My Kathy loves, loves, loves chocolate. I love, love, love bread pudding. So, this recipe was created to satisfy both of our passions for a special occasion dessert.
Still Not Convinced? Read on because this is one of those recipes you will want to have in your repertoire.
So what’s the big deal? Well, it had to be special, made with high-quality ingredients that would turn out a memorable experience, not just an average experience. As I already stated, it has chocolate—high quality chocolate. I know very few chocolate lovers who won’t hug (or attack!) anyone bearing chocolate! I wanted the chocolate to be in chunks, spread throughout the dessert like pockets of diamonds waiting to be discovered. I wanted the bread to be unexpected–a special surprise that one rarely sees in a common bread pudding. It had to be smooth and silky, soft and pleasing–a sensual texture in the mouth. And balanced–it had to have just the right amount of sweetness–not overpowering in any way. I wanted it to have layers of flavors and textures that could be individually tasted , not a glob of blended undistinguishable flavors.
It had to be souffle-like–light and airy, but rich so that just a little square would be enough to satiate your appetite without being heavy at the end of a great meal. Instead, it would brighten the end of a dinner when accompanied by a glass of Extra-Dry Champagne, a Tawny Port or a hot and steamy Cappuccino.
And it had to be stupidly easy to make. It had to have just a few great ingredients creating a complex, satisfying dessert. So simple, that anyone could make it, knowing with near certainty that it would come out perfectly every time.
Well, I think it was a Hit! I got so many compliments on this dessert from the Paella guests, that everyone wanted the recipe and insisted I post it on the blog. I barely got a chance to take a picture before it was gone–totally gone. I had some leftover ingredients and made another batch the next day to give to some of my ‘at home’ friends. The calls the next day were very encouraging. There was obviously a lot of “killing’ going on that weekend in my neighborhood.
OK, this is not an inexpensive dessert. But, if it’s just you and your main squeeze sharing it, or just two couples, you can easily cut this recipe in half, and you’ll still have plenty leftover for the morning after. By the way, it’s just as good cold as it is warm out of the oven. Try it! I’ll bet you’ll love it too!!
My Killer Chocolate Bread Pudding
Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 35 mins | Makes: About 16 servings | Difficulty:Easy
- 12 stale croissants, cut into bite size cubes (See Notes)
- 12 ounces Nestle’s or Other High Quality Chocolate Chunks: Milk, Semi-sweet, Dark or a mix
- 7 cups heavy cream
- 1-3/4 cups sugar
- 9 eggs
- 3 tbsp vanilla
- Zest of one orange (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 450°. Place oven rack in middle of the oven.
2. Layer croissants and chocolate chunks into a 9 x 13 inch pan. Two layers should do it. Just make sure you have some of the chocolate chunks on the top layer so it’ll melt all the way down to the bottom of the pan.
3. Mix cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla in bowl and pour over the top of croissant layers.
4. Bake for 35 minutes or just a little more until top lightly browns and the texture is souffle-like. Careful to not let top burn.
5. Remove from oven, let cool to warm and serve with ice cream, whipped cream or just by itself.
A. This can be easily scaled to a smaller or larger quantity.
B. Instead of croissants you can use stale French baguettes as well as challah bread, or my favorite is to use 1/2 croissants and 1/2 challah.
C. I added some golden raisins to one of the batches. Not too many, but they added a nice layer of flavor and texture.
Source: Lou’s Recipe Collection