I’m not a big bread eater. Oh, every now and then I’ll get a hankering for a good sandwich or I’ll have a piece of toast with my Sunday brunch or a warm roll with dinner, but I’m not one of those people who can’t do without bread – to be honest, I’d miss cornbread way before I’d miss sandwich bread or dinner rolls.
Nor are Beloved and the Young One all that fond of bread – they both enjoy a good sandwich (more than I do) and those warm dinner rolls (again, more than I do), but that’s about it. There are weeks I buy or bake bread where it more or less sits there in its designated spot on top of the microwave, just getting stale. This is further compounded by the fact that Beloved prefers whole grain bread and The Young One will only eat white sandwich bread or cheese bread when I bake it – I often have two loaves of bread just…sitting there.
The bread exception – for me, anyway – is bread pudding. I LOVE the stuff. If it is on the menu at a restaurant, Beloved knows we will be ordering dessert; in fact, he’s been known to tell the waiter, “Don’t bother asking – just bring the bread pudding.” For me, it is one of the ultimate comfort foods (Pho Bo and Sticky Rice with Mangoes is also on that list…I know, but I never claimed to be normal, now did I?).
Anyhoo, this weekend I found myself with half a loaf of white sandwich bread that was fit for nothing but toast, and it wasn’t going to be good for that much longer either. I certainly didn’t want to throw it away, so I stood there, pondering it, while I fried bacon for our Sunday brunch, when it occurred to me – French toast! But there was only the two of us, since Beloved is in California on business, so that would only use three pieces of bread. Where did that leave me? With a lot more stale bread, that’s where.
Ah-hah! I thought. Bread pudding! And not just any bread pudding – a chocolate bread pudding! But all of the chocolate bread pudding recipes instructed melting the chocolate and adding it to the eggs and milk, and I wasn’t sure I wanted that. So I ended up substituting chocolate chips for the raisins in a more traditional bread pudding recipe. I also skipped the sauce, which is made of butter, sugar, eggs and usually some sort of booze – I wanted The Young One to be able to have some, and it was quite rich enough without the sauce anyway.
I plated the pudding and took the picture of it about 10 minutes after it came out of the oven, and it was very tasty hot, but not so pretty and the cinnamon seemed a tad overwhelming. However, I ate some for breakfast this morning, after heating it for about 30 seconds in the microwave, and I have to tell you I preferred it this morning. So let the pudding rest for at least an hour before you serve it, to allow it to set up and the flavors to meld.
Also, most bread pudding recipes are going to call for French or Italian loaves, or a sweeter bread such as Challa. Sandwich bread will be just fine for this recipe if you further dry it out in the oven a little before soaking it in the milk.
Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding
serves six, or me
4 cups cubed stale, white sandwich bread
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Place the cubed bread in a large mixing bowl; pour the milk over it, allowing it to soak for about 15 – 20 minutes. Push the bread down into the milk with a spoon occasionally.
While the bread is soaking, use the tablespoon of butter to grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. I used my soufflé dish, but a 9″ x 9″ square baking dish should work well, too.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and spices and beat with the whisk attachment until frothy, about 2 minutes. (This can be done by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer; it will just take longer.) Gently stir the egg/sugar mixture into the bread and milk until thoroughly combined, then gently fold in the chocolate chips.
Pour the bread mixture into the buttered dish and bake for 35 – 45 minutes, or until set. The pudding is done when the edges start getting a bit brown and pull away from the edge of the pan.
You can serve the pudding right away, but it is best if allowed to rest for at least an hour. If it cools off too much, you can reheat it gently in the oven for a few moments.