Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Love at First Bite: Chocolate-Cranberry Bread Pudding

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I tend to buy a lot of bread. Once a week I buy lunch at my local co-op, and I almost always end up buying a loaf of French bread because, well, they just look so damn tasty. Cut to two days later when I have a stale loaf of French bread sitting on my counter, and you can begin to see where this recipe came from. 

Bread pudding is an ingenious way to use stale bread. You end up a hero instead of that schmuck who let the bread go bad. The bones of the recipe are simple; just a basic custard, some bread, and then whatever the hell else you have on hand. In my kitchen I almost always have chocolate and dried cranberries, and that flavor combination shows up often in my baking, hence this iteration of bread pudding.

It is absolutely essential that the bread be stale; if you can’t wait day or two cut up the bread according to the recipe and then out it in a low oven (175-200) for a while until its dried out. If you try this recipe with fresh bread you’ll end up with a soggy, sloppy mess. Over than that, feel free to add in whatever goodies you have on hand. Dried fruit, candied ginger, bits of peppermint, or chopped nuts would all work.

● 1 loaf stale French bread
● 1/4 cup dried cranberries
● 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
● 4 eggs
● 2.5 cups heavy cream
● 3/4 cup sugar
● 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
● 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
● 2 pinches kosher salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut the French bread into 1/4 thick slices, or cube (your preference)
2. Arrange the bread pieces in an 8.5 x 11 inch oven-proof casserole dish. Sprinkle the cranberries and chocolate over the bread.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until combined (this is your custard base).
4. Pour the mixture over the bread, pressing down to make sure each piece of break is covered in the custard. Cover the dish with tin foil and put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to let the bread soak.
5. After the bread has soaked, place the dish in the oven and bake 45 min – 1 hour, until the center has set and no longer jiggles. Remove the tin foil from the dish during the last 15 minutes of baking to allow the top to get browned and crisp.
6. Serve hot!