Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bourbon Pecan Caramel Sauce

This humble looking yet great-tasting bread pudding always gets compliments (on flavor, not beauty) --- plus, it can feed a crowd. It might not be pretty, but the combined powers of chocolate, creamy caramel, toasted pecans and bourbon make for a dangerous quartet on the fork.  Beyond that, it has several qualities of a great winter dessert: substantial, almost savory, and served warm.

The bread pudding is great, but the bourbon pecan sauce kicks it to a new level. One should not be had without the other. Don't bother with your top shelf bourbon. Grab what you've got and you'll be fine. Others making this recipe have used plain whiskey or dark rum and still enjoyed the results.
Warning: This is a recipe I've made for the last four winters, and it's not an independent choice anymore - others demand it. A great benefit is that you can make it the day before and pop it in the oven as you sit down to dinner. It's one of my favorite make-ahead desserts.

According to Epicurious, the recipe for this bread pudding was created by Alison Barshak, former pastry chef of the Central Bar & Grill in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She went on to become the executive chef at Striped Bass in Philadelphia. And the hero of everyone I know. Thanks, Alison.
Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bourbon Pecan Caramel Sauce via Epicurious
(I've made some edits to the original recipe)
Bourbon Pecan Caramel Sauce
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
1 cup toasted chopped pecans (toast for 3 to 7 min at 400 degrees)
2 Tbsp bourbon (plain whiskey or dark rum will also work)

Chocolate Bread Pudding
2 cups whole milk (Don't use low-fat or non-fat. It just won't be the same.)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup granulated sugar
8 oz chopped semisweet baking chocolate (don't use chocolate chips)
8 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
One 1-pound challah bread cut into 1-inch pieces

Bourbon Pecan Caramel Sauce Instructions
Stir sugar and water in heavy large pot over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Mix in corn syrup and lemon juice. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup turns a golden amber, swirling pan occasionally. Remove from heat and carefully pour in the cream (the mixture will bubble and rise up...take care that it doesn't overflow). Stir over low heat until the mixture is smooth. Increase heat and boil until it is reduced to about 1 2/3 cups, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add pecans and bourbon.
Make Ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reheat before using.

Chocolate Pudding Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine milk, cream and sugar in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate, stirring until smooth. In a large bowl, beat eggs and vanilla to blend. Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture, whisking constantly as you add it (If it is still too hot it will cook the eggs as you pour it in, so do let it cool briefly, maybe 5 minutes, before this step). Add bread cubes. Let stand until bread absorbs some of custard, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Transfer mixture to a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish or a casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake until set in center, about 45 minutes. Uncover and cool 15 minutes.
Make Ahead: Can be baked in advance and either frozen (probably for a few months), or refrigerated (1 or 2 days). Thaw and reheat in oven before serving.

To Serve: Serve pudding warm or at room temperature with warm sauce.

Hope you all enjoy this one!