Upgrade your pain au chocolat pudding by starting it with a ‘pain & chocolat’ loaf | arts and culture
During a period when I was a child, my father was a partner in a law firm on Wall Street. (He also served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and as a state and federal judge, but I digress.) If you know anything about the New York legal world, you know it’s intense and stressful. , and too much of my dad’s vacation time spent working, so much so that one year he was hospitalized with heart problems.
My mom (whose dad was a cardiologist so she knew about heart issues) put her foot down and said, “This is it! We’re going far enough for the holidays that they won’t contact you!” (Of course, that was before email and cellphones. This effort is much more difficult today!)
As a result, for a few years my parents used the Vacation Exchange Club — an early iteration of the Airbnb concept — to find rentals in Europe for a month. A year means that we spent the month of July in a beautiful “mother-in-law” apartment at the gates of Paris.
Seeing that there were two young children in the family – my sister and I were 10 and 13 at the time – the owners of the property told my parents about a day camp in town where they could just us sign up for random days here and there, whenever they wanted to enjoy a day in Paris without kids. And so, although we knew little French, my parents dropped us off. It was certainly an interesting experience, but what I remember most – unsurprisingly – was the food they served. Hot lunch could include fish with lemon butter sauce or coq au vin, and our morning and afternoon snack was often a broken piece of a baguette with a piece of dark chocolate stuck in it.
Our local Berkshire Mountain Bakery, one of the wonderful artisan producers we have here in the Berkshires, does this one better with their Bread & Chocolate, which always reminds me of those snacks at our French day camp. The bread is a hearty, chewy sourdough with a veritable overabundance of chunky dark chocolate chunks mixed in. Excellent on its own, it is also sublime in French toast. But my favorite recipe with this decadent treat makes it even more like bread pudding.
This recipe calls for half a loaf, enough for dessert and leftovers with just the two of us, but it can definitely be doubled using a larger pan.
Most of the recipes I turn to now are ones that can be easily prepared – and easily frozen. Two of my recent favorites are a two-ingredient pumpkin cake that I found in my recipe box and a four-ingredient coconut macaroon that came from my daughter-in-law’s mother.
BREAD AND CHOCOLATE PUDDING
For 4 people
Cooking spray or butter to grease the pan
1/2 Berkshire Mountain Bakery Bread & Chocolate, sliced, halved slices, about 9 ounces (or 6-7 ounces other sourdough bread plus 1/2 cup chocolate chunks, about 3 ounces)
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a shallow baking dish or casserole dish, just large enough to hold the bread in about two layers, with cooking spray or butter.
Arrange the bread pieces in the prepared baking dish. Combine milk, cream and eggs and whisk well to combine.
Pour the pastry cream mixture over the bread. Leave to soak for 30 to 45 minutes, pressing occasionally with a spatula to help all the pieces soak up the custard.
Sprinkle vanilla sugar on top of the bread pudding, if using.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the cream is completely set. Serve hot with ice cream, whipped cream or caramel sauce.
Elizabeth Baer is a teacher who enjoys spending time in the kitchen. She also posts recipes and food musings on her blog, culinursa.com/blog and can be contacted at [email protected].