I cannot tell you how much I love bread pudding. For me, the traditional version brings together some of my favorite, comforting elements: bready carbs, light sweetness, heady creaminess. I love it when you get a bite that’s slightly crunchy, slightly caramelized, and entirely scrumptious. The only things that could make it better are: chocolate, booze and salt. Oh, and a magical weight-loss dust.
I wanted to find a recipe that did the trick on all fronts. I dug through tons of recipes – online and in my go-to books. I didn’t make them all, but no one single version seemed right. So I amalgamated. One day, I may just splurge on the Cook’s Illustrated version because everything they develop is so crazy good, but for the moment, I can’t afford to use nine eggs on two desserts. (The second being the coconut macaroons I’d make with the leftover egg whites.)
One great thing about this version is, if you don’t want the extra sugar or the bourbon in the glaze, you can just skip it. Or, do what I did and serve it on the side. That way each eater can choose for themselves how jiggy they want to get with it. But really, the bourbon glaze puts this dish over the top. And you know what they say, “Everything in moderation. Even moderation.”
This is a great recipe for a dinner party. Prep it in the afternoon or even the night before. Then pop it in the oven when you sit down to eat. It’ll be ready by the time your diners have recovered a bit from the meal. Just in time to knock their socks off again.
Chocolate Bourbon Bread Pudding
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
1 ½ pound artisan bread or challah, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (9 cups) and dried out (see Notes below)
4 ½ cups half-and-half or milk
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs, plus 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 pinches coarse salt
2-4 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped (ideally into rectangles approx 1 in x ½ in)
FOR THE BOURBON GLAZE
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons bourbon
½ cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup heavy cream
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack set in the lower third of the oven. Lightly butter and 9-by-13-inch baking dish; set aside.
2. In a very large bowl, toss the bread with the half n half and let is soak.
3. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Remove from heat and add both sugars, vanilla and nutmeg; stir until smooth and well combined. Set aside to cool.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs. Whisk in butter mixture until smooth and well combined. Pour over bread tossing until well combined.
5. Pour bread mixture into prepared baking dish, spreading evenly. Cover the baking dish in plastic, pressing the plastic into the custard before securing it to the sides. Use weights, another baking dish or sacks of sugar or flour to press the bread down into the liquid. If you have time, allow the bread to soak in the custard for an hour or two. (You could even wrap it tightly in plastic and set it in the refrigerator, with weights if possible, overnight. Bring it back to room temperature before baking.) Cover baking dish with parchment paper-lined aluminum foil. Transfer to oven and bake for 55 minutes.
6. Remove pan from oven and remove paper and foil. Shove larger chunks of chocolate between pieces of bread. Sprinkle the shavings and tiny pieces of chocolate that are left over across the top. Continue baking without foil until bread pudding is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
7. Make the glaze: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add bourbon and sugars, stirring until incorporated. Add cream and mix until smooth. Pour glaze over top of bread pudding and let stand 15 minutes before serving. Or, serve sauce on the side.
8. Sprinkle the top with salt and serve warm. Add lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if you must.
To dry out the bread, spread the cubes in a single layer on a cookie sheet. You can toast them in a 200 degree oven for an hour or, just cover them with a clean dish towel and leave them out for a day. If the bread has a thick crust, you will want to remove most of it.
If you want to skip the glaze, but would prefer a sweet crusty top, mix 1 tbsp each brown and granulated sugar. Sprinkle this on top of the pudding just before baking. You could sprinkle the bourbon too, but i would wait until the pudding comes out of the oven.
To make this a bit less fattening, use milk instead of half n half.
You could also reduce the whole recipe by one third (eggs become 1 whole egg and 2 yolks) and use an 8×8 baking dish or a 1.5 quart roasting pan.