The Bitter and the Sweet
I seemed to have missed my seat on the holiday dessert train, overwhelmed with work, inundated and saturated with all the recipes, photos and ideas. Paralyzed. Frozen. Unable to even bake a single cookie, tray of fudge and forget about the divinity that danced in my head. Luckily for me my darlings shared their bounties and indulged me with chocolate, tea cookies and shortbread.
Maybe the reason why people feel better starting the New Year energized and ready to go with the feeling of well being has a direct correlation to the amount of chocolate eaten during the long holiday season. Could it be the constant release of classic dark chocolate endorphin producing serotonin puts the mojo in your go-go and not the guilt of being over sated?
Darkness. Feared or a comfort, the bitter and the sweet of it. Certainly not for everyone. I am not afraid of embracing the darkness, the rich complexity, and nuances that percentages play in defining light or bold characteristics. Who isn’t a sucker for chocolate? But those who adore the dark, bittersweet varieties are akin to those whose preferences lie in robust red wines and roller coaster rides — or is that just me?
Recouped and ready to go I was determined to have my dark chocolate fix. Happening upon a 2004 Gourmet recipe seemed to be just what I was looking for; dark, chewy and yet revealing a custard so smooth, mousse-like and satiny if you closed your eyes you might be think of French Silk Pie. Thanks to the copious comments about this recipe I formed my own strategy. All those testers and commenters prove what an invaluable service the cooking community can be.
Adding a bit of orange to contrast and create brightness in both the custard and a drizzle on top made me think of those confections sold in the winter (you know the ones, shaped like an orange.) I also played a bit with what form this might take. Certainly the classic deep casseroles would work, but I also thought that it would be so sweet to have single, small servings and used silicone cupcake molds. The recipe makes a large enough quantity that you can experiment, but make sure that your pudding is cooking in something deep enough to handle a hot water bath without the water seeping into the container.
These created the perfect little bites, but for those that crave that large, indulgent serving to chase away the blues it would be hard to beat a bowl of this with orange vanilla sauce and some whipped cream.
- 8 cups cubed stale Pugliese or French bread (1 large loaf)
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup Half and Half
- 2 cups 2% Milk
- ½ to ¾ cup Sugar (to taste)
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- 1 teaspoon Cointreau orange liqueur
- 6 ounces Scharffen Berger 99% Chocolate, chopped into chunks
- 3.5 ounces Lindt Excellence 70% chocolate bar, broken into pieces
- 1 teaspoon Orange Zest
- Water (for hot water bath)
- Bread should be well dried out, several days old. One large loaf can be approximately 32 ounces. Remove crust from bread and cut into ½” slices horizontally, then cube in ½” cubes.
- Combine half and half, milk and sugar in saucepan and heat until sugar has dissolved to just scalded (but not boiling.) Remove from heat. Add chocolate and stir until melted and incorporated into the liquid.
- Lightly whisk eggs in a large bowl until well beaten.
- Gradually add one cup of the chocolate liquid to the eggs, whisking as you go to temper the egg mixture (to gradually bring up the temperature of the eggs so they do not cook in the hot milk mixture.)
- Add orange zest, cointreau and vanilla. Then continue adding the rest of the liquid.
- Add bread cubes to bowl and stir to combine with chocolate mixture. Soak bread for at least an hour (two hours even better.) Occasionally stir/fold the bread in the liquid to aid bread fully soaking in the chocolate goodness.
- When you are ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
- Butter deep baking dishes that will accommodate about 10 cups of mixture. I used a combination of 1 six cup, 1 three cup and 4 ½ cup silicone cupcake molds.
- Prepare a hot water bath by placing the baking dishes in a large roasting pan (or pans according to space requirements) and filling half-way up the sides with hot water.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until the edges are set and the center is slightly jiggly but toothpick comes out clean. (If you use the cupcake molds remove at about 30-35 minutes.)
- Cool on baking rack. Pudding will continue to set during the cooling process.
- Serve warm with whipped cream, ice cream or a nice vanilla orange sauce. I liked the leftovers chilled or room temperature. Reheating changes the consistency of the silky pudding texture.
PS- I’ll volunteering at the upcoming Santa Cruz Chocolate Event – UCSC Women’s Club Annual Chocolate Festival – January 20, 2013
Recipe inspired by Gourmet Magazine Chocolate Bread Pudding 2004
Health benefits of dark chocolate