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 dried 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. Muffin cups with tulip shaped liners worked but I was looking for a more formal shape. 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. Alternatively, you can buy some cylindrical liners to go inside the ring molds.
INGREDIENTS (makes roughly 6-8)
- 125 grams of lightly toasted brioche ( You’ll need to start with a 12 ounce loaf of an all butter brioche. You can also use all butter croissant. I have used croissants that were 24 hours old. I bought them at the end of the day and let them sit in a paper bag overnight and then toasted them).
- 200 grams (4) whole eggs
- 225 grams (1 cup) superfine sugar
- 6 teaspoons of course sanding sugar to sprinkle on top of the Puddings.
- 250 grams (1 cup) whole milk
- 120 grams (1/2) cup whipping cream
- 21.24 grams (3/4) oz dutched cocoa powder
- 125 (4.5 oz)bittersweet chocolate
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1tsp baking powder (For rounded tops, use double acting)
- 113 (5 oz) golden raisins (dried tart cherries or prunes or 1 oz of stem ginger with 4 oz dried apricots. For the apricot/ ginger I add 2 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate and I substitute 1tsp almond extract for the vanilla. If using cherries, cut them in half. If using apricots and ginger, dice the ginger and cut the apricots into quarters).
- 2 oz dark Rum if using raisins, (Kirsch if using cherries, Armagnac if using prunes and water if using diced stem ginger and apricots only for the apricots if they are top firm. They will not soften with baking).
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees farhenheit.
- 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. If you’re using cylindrical greased liners you don’t need to grease the rings. Just slip the liners inside the rings to give the liners some support.
- Remove crust from the brioche, unless the crust is soft and then you needn’t bother. 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. Set aside 125 grams and use the rest for something else.
- Place the dried fruit in a sauce pan with 2 oz water or your spirits of choice and bring to the simmer. Cook until the fruit has absorbed all the liquid.
- Bring milk and sugar to a simmer and add to the cocoa powder little by little. Whisk until combined and sugar is dissolved.
- Pour the hot milk over 125 grams of 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 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 three minutes and then wisk to blend it.
- Wisk together eggs, 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. 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.
- Bake for about 15 minutes and sprinkle the tops with the reserved sugar. Bake another 5-15 minutes or until a toothpick come out with moist crumbs. The baking time varies depending on the size of your rings and how full you fill them. I have done this in large tulip shaped muffin cup liners in which case it took about 30 minutes. I got about 7 muffins.
- Serve with unsweetened whipped cream.
I’ve done the bread pudding muffins for the pastry shop where I work, using day old croissants. I do toast them, like the brioche and for some reason, I need to increase the amount I use. So instead of 125 grams, I use 175. We also make large quantities and refrigerate the batter for a few days, scooping out what we need for the day. I use tulip liners and an ice cream scoop to fill them. For six muffins I do two scoops per muffin cup.
For apricot and stem ginger, I use 5oz very soft apricots and cut each into 4 pieces. I use two ounces of stem ginger and dice that pretty small as they pack some heat. I omit the vanilla and use a teaspoon of almond extract. I also use about two ounces of bittersweet chocolate cut I to chunks.
In an effort to see see if I could make the cakes lighter. I used brioche that had been cubed and toasted at 300F for 5 minutes. I separated the eggs and whipped the whites with half the sugar. I added the tolls and the rest of the sugar to the soaked bread and the. Folded in the whites at the end. 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. However when you whip the egg whites, you get temporary volume that deflates when it comes out of the oven. Be sure not to overfill the molds or they will puff up over the molds, mushroom out and become deformed.