Some time ago I had a marvelous, individual serving of a chocolate bread pudding, at a catered event. Too much time elapsed before I decided to make said bread pudding and I couldn’t find the caterer. I don’t know that they would have parted with the recipe in any event. That’s ok, I like a challenge. It was a bread pudding unlike any I’d had before. It was light and moist with no discernible cubes of bread. It had the texture somewhat like a flourless chocolate cake.
So why not start with recipe for a flourless chocolate cake? Well, for one, I wanted to take the catering server at his word and assume he knew he was serving a bread pudding and not a flourless chocolate cake and two, it was studded with dry fruit and I figured a flourless chocolate cake wouldn’t support those fruits. So, I hit the internet and found recipes from Cooks Illustrated, Dorie Greenspan and others. I tried them all and none really made the dessert I was looking for. Once again, on my own looking for the bread pudding in my memory.
There were multiple choices I had to make: what kind of bread to use, fresh or day old or toasted; the ratio of chocolate and/or cocoa powder, whole eggs or yolks only, cream and/or milk, leavened or not, and whether or not to bake them in a large pan and cut them to size or bake them individually. After I made a promising batter, I cooked some in a high sided pan oblong pan, some in ring molds and some in muffin cups. I cut out individual cakes from the batch in the high sided pan but didn’t like the exposed edge. The muffin tins were too short without liners and I didn’t like the ridged edge when I did use liners. Ring molds seemed to be the way to go. You get a bit of leakage coming out of the bottom but not too bad if your tray is completely flat. The silpat seems to help stop the leakage as does a cold sheet pan.
Individual ring molds 3″ x 1.75″ or 9″ square straight sided cake pan.
- 125 grams of lightly toasted brioche ( you’ll need to start with a 12 ounce loaf of an all butter brioche).
- 4 whole eggs
- 1 cup superfine sugar (remove and reserve 2 tablespoons to sprinkle on the top of the cakes)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 3/4 oz dutched cocoa powder
- 4.5 oz bittersweet chocolate
- Pinch of salt
- Butter to grease the rings or pan and parchment paper if using a square pan
- 4 oz dried tart cherries or golden raisins or prunes or 2 oz each of stem ginger and dried apricots. If using cherries, cut them in half. If using apricots and ginger or prunes dice them.
- 2 oz dark Rum if using raisins, Kirsch if using cherries, Armagnac if using prunes and nothing if using apricots and stem ginger.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- line a sheet pan with a Silpat. Grease ring molds with softened butter and put on the sheet pan and then put the pan in the freezer. If using a square pan, grease the sides and line the bottom with parchment.
- Remove crust from the brioche and cut into 1″ cubes. Place cubes on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for about fifteen minutes for 15 minutes until dry to the touch and slightly toasted.
- Place the dry fruit in a sauce pan with 2 oz water and bring to the simmer. Cook until the fruit has absorbed all the liquid.
- Bring milk to a simmer and add the cocoa powder. Whisk until combined.
- Pour the hot milk over the toasted bread cubes, stirring occasionally to make sure the bread is soaking up the liquid. After 15 minutes use an immersion blender to mash it up up the bread or use trap the bread between a fork and the side of the bowl to mash it.
- Chop the chocolate and place in a glass bowl.
- Heat the cream to a simmer and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let sit about five minutes and then stir to blend it.
- Wisk together eggs, sugar, salt, baking powder and vanilla and add to the chocolate mixture, whisking until combined. Stir into the bread mixture.
- Ladle mixture into the ring molds or the pan. Sprinkle the top of the cake/ cakes with the reserved sugar and place in the oven. These do rise and if they rise over the ring mold the tops become misshapen. I would advise only filling them about 2/3ds of the way up. You may end up with more than 10 cakes. Oops!
- Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick come out with moist crumbs.
- Serve with unsweetened whipped cream.
I wanted lighter cakes so I tried whipping the whites separately with about 3 tablespoons of sugar and folding them in. They looked promising. The batter was definitely fluffier. However, after baking, they did sink. Perhaps making a stronger meringue with more sugar would keep them from collapsing. In addition, I filled the rings 2/3rds full as I did with the original recipe and they puffed up over the top, becoming deformed as they fell because their edges got stuck on the edge of the molds. However, I think the cakes were lighter. Perhaps the solution is to use ring molds that are 3″ high. That way when the sink you’ll still have a cake that has reasonable height so it doesn’t look like a hockey puck.
One thing I am going to do is try making this with fresh brioche that hasn’t been toasted. This will ultimately result in using less bread and I wonder if it will be lighter. I did some experiments with 10 gram pieces of bread and 30grams of milk per piece of bread to see which absorbed the liquid better. I used a 10 gram piece of fresh brioche, a 10 gram piece of brioche dried for 5 minutes in the oven (which ended up weighing slightly less as it became dehydrated) and 10 grams of brioche that was dried for 20 minutes and was slightly toasted. The piece the bread that absorbed the most milk was the 10 grams of toasted bread. The fresh bread absorbed quite well but there was more liquid left. Ok kids, this is as close to science as I can get.
So, because I am a little obsessive when trying to create a recipe, I did go back and try to use fresh Brioche that had been cubed and toasted at 300F for 5 minutes as well as reserving half the sugar to add to the whipped egg whites. The cakes were not lighter but the texture was creamier, more like a flourless chocolate cake. It was quite nice if you want to go that route. Again, when you whip the egg whites, you get temporary volume that deflates when it comes out of the oven. I baked this recipe in a 9″x13″ pan. It was too big. And even with that voluminous batter I would use a 9″ square pan or you’ll have a cake that is about 1″ high.