Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream*
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (600ml) whole milk*
  • two 4-ounce bars semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped*
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 loaf day-old challah bread, cut into 1 inch cubes*
  • 1 cup (190g) chocolate chips or 4 extra ounces chopped chocolate
  • optional add-ins: 1 cup of chopped pecans, dried cranberries/cherries, peanut butter chips, etc
  • optional toppings: salted caramel, fresh berries, homemade whipped cream

Directions:

  1. Over medium heat, heat the heavy cream and whole milk in a medium saucepan until simmering. (Do not let it come to a rapid boil-- that's too hot!) Pour over chocolate and let it sit for 2-3 minutes to gently soften the chocolate. Then stir until completely combined and chocolate has melted. Set aside for a few minutes to slightly cool down so as not to cook the eggs in the next step.
  2. Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt together in a large bowl. Pour in the chocolate cream mixture and whisk until smooth. Divide this chocolate custard mixture in half. Add the bread cubes and chocolate chips to one half and stir to evenly coat.
  3. Grease a 9x13-inch (or similar size) baking pan. Spread the soaked bread evenly into the pan. Pour the remaining chocolate custard evenly over the top. If you have extra, dot a few chocolate chips on top too (this is for looks and extra chocolate taste!). Cover tightly with aluminum foil and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes so the bread has a chance to soak up some of the custard. This is crucial. You can also chill the unbaked bread pudding in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
  5. Bake the bread pudding for 45-50 minutes* until the edges appear set. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. It will come out with a few moist crumbs, but won't be overly wet. *I bake it covered for the first 20-25 minutes, then remove the aluminum foil for the remaining time so it can slightly crisp on the top and around the edges.
  6. Garnish with toppings and serve warm.
  7. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. Serve leftovers warm, room temperature, or cold. We found that the bread pudding had a slight texture change when reheated. The custard was a little more solid and not deliciously soft. The bread pudding is best eaten right out of the oven.

Make ahead tip: You can prepare the bread pudding through step 3 and refrigerate for up to 1 day before baking. You can also freeze the baked bread pudding for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then reheat in the oven until warm throughout. See the last step in the recipe with notes on the taste/texture after reheating. I do not suggest freezing the unbaked pudding as the custard will separate when thawing/baking.

Recipe Notes:

*I found the best combination of liquid to be 1 cup of heavy cream/heavy whipping cream with 2 and 1/2 cups of whole milk. Alternatively, you can use 3 and 1/2 cups of full-fat half-and-half. I do not suggest all whole milk or anything lower in fat. If you buy a pint of heavy cream, you can use the leftover 1 cup to make whipped cream to top the baked bread pudding. See step 6 in this strawberry shortcake recipe for how I usually make homemade whipped cream.

*Since you're essentially making a thinned-out ganache, it's best to use real chocolate. You can find the 4 ounce baking bars in the baking aisle. I like using Ghirardelli or Baker's brand. You can use 8 ounces (heaping 1 and 1/3 cups) of quality chocolate chips instead, such as Ghirardelli brand. I tested this recipe with unsweetened chocolate as I knew I wanted to top it with salted caramel and sweetened whipped cream. It was extra dark and not overly sweetened; we loved it. You can use semi-sweet, bittersweet, or unsweetened chocolate. White chocolate will work as well, though I would reduce the granulated sugar to 1/4 cup.

*You need around 1 lb of bread. I suggest a rich sweet bread like challah or brioche. You can also use a baguette. I don't suggest a heartier bread or sourdough bread as their flavors don't pair well with sweet bread pudding. Whichever bread you use, slice and leave it out overnight so it's stale and can really soak up the custard. Moist bread creates a soggy bread pudding.

You can bake the bread pudding in several individual ramekins. Adjust the baking time as needed.

Adapted from King Arthur Flour and Food & Wine

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