Working in a restaurant kitchen means a few things. You wear the same shoes as hardworking nurses because standing for prep afternoon and service night is no joke. You speak at least enough Spanish to insult someone’s kitchen speed or hairline and enough Spanish to ask for food nicely. You know that the best salads are tossed by hands likely not wearing gloves, that the dishwasher is king, and that the bread pudding in the walk-in cooler is likely very good day one from the oven and decreases in goodness the longer it sits in the walk-in cooler next to the blue cheese.
When you work in a restaurant kitchen you learn NOT to order the bread pudding on a rare night out at another restaurant.
…Unless, of course, you’r eat Ffiona’s in London where the bread pudding is served fresh, warm, and wobbly. It’s that jiggle that points to freshness, that means the bread pudding hasn’t languished next to stinky cheese and lost it’s luster.
This is London inspiration in New Orleans. All puffed and wobbly and this time, chocolate-drizzled.
A whole pan; puffed and fresh from the oven? This gives new meaning to the term ‘hot and heavy’.
(Really satisfied with that dad joke, thanks.)
Here’s how we start!
Very fine bread pudding starts with very fine stale bread and a rich, creamy custard. I think brioche makes the bread pudding of dreams, but the heart of this dish is that it’s made easily with whatever bread you have on hand that’s tired out and ready for cream. It’s just really nice and supremely delicious if that bread happens to be brioche. You pickin’ up what I’m layin’ down?
Toasted to dry and golden brown because dry bread is absorbent bread.
Eggs + whole milk + cream + ground cinnamon + dried cherries (or orange zest, or raisins, or chocolate chunks, or none at all).
The toasted bread is buttered reverently.
Buttering bread is like praying. Amen.
Buttered. Nothing too precious. Just right.
Right and ready to tear by hand into bite-size pieces. Big bites.
If you’re feeling like this is a messy endeavor, you’d be right.
Dried cherries if you fancy a bite of fruit.
I think these are a nice compliment to the chocolate sauce. Did I mention there was chocolate sauce? Yes / heck yes.
Torn toasted and buttered bread: Check!
Up next: egg cream custard!
Six eggs, a cuppa sugar, a whisk whisk whisk.
Vanilla extract, a good glug.
Ground cinnamon, a good shake.
A 5 cup mixture of whole milk and heavy cream in whatever proportions you’re feeling.
Obviously the more heavy cream we use, the more we’re teetering on the edge of decadence.
I like more whole milk than heavy cream. We’re savages, but we still like balance.
Poured big and bold over the toasted bread bites.
Here’s the trick, before the bread pudding goes in the oven it’s best to let the mixture sit, soak, and chill in the refrigerator. The bread will absorb the custard making it exactly moist and tender when it finally does emerge from the oven.
Glory be. Really!
While the bread pudding bakes to tender and puffed, I whipped together a super simple chocolate sauce and you absolutely should too.
We’re talking sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, milk, and butter. Very simple. The ability to make a quick chocolate sauce is a deeply valued life skill. Tuck that right in your back pocket and ease on down the road with it.
I love this bread pudding served, wobbly (as Ffiona insists), just slightly warmed, and served alongside a small dish of chocolate sauce for extra dipping.
Photos with: Jon MelendezPrint
For the Bread Pudding
- 16 to 18 ounces brioche bread, sliced
- 1/2 cup dried cherries, optional
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and divided
- 3 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- scant 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Chocolate Sauce
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup bittersweet or milk chocolate pieces, whatever you have on hand that’s not unsweetened
- Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place bread slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes, but keep an eye on the bread to make sure it doesn’t burn.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
- Butter each slice of bread with the stick of butter, reserving 2 tablespoons of butter to grease a 9×13-inch pan.
- Tear the buttered bread slices into large, bite-size pieces and place in the buttered dish. This may prove to be a rather messy endeavor, but that’s ok… sure is worth the messy fingers.
- Add the dried cherries, if using, and move the bread around a bit to ensure the cherries are dispersed throughout.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, cream, vanilla, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk until well combined and smooth.
- Pour the creamy egg mixture over the buttered bread in the pan. Press the bread down just slightly to ensure that it’s all well coated and the majority of it is soaking. Wrap lightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour (or even overnight).
- Just before baking, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap bread pudding and place in the oven to bake until toasted, puffed and golden brown, about 40 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- Make the chocolate sauce while the bread pudding is baking. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk together cocoa powder, sugar, and milk. Once warmed and just beginning to bubble around the edges, add butter and chocolate pieces. Stir until completely melted and glossy. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before serving.
- If you need to thin the sauce again before baking, just reheat over low heat lightly and add a splash more milk.
- To serve, generously scoop bread pudding into bowls and drizzle lightly with warm chocolate sauce. Store remaining bread pudding covered in the refrigerator.