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Sweet Tidings


David Guas wrote in “DamGoodSweet” (with Raquel Pelzel, The Taunton Press) that he makes some version of bread pudding for his family every holiday season. I spice up this version up a bit with the addition of ground Saigon cinnamon – for many of us the essence of the holiday season – to both the bread budding and the equally decadent salted bourbon caramel sauce. This showstopper dessert is perfect for large gatherings and potlucks because you can make it up to three days ahead of time. 

  1. Because it can be made in advance, and refrigerated a few days ahead of time, bread pudding is an excellent choice for entertaining. To warm, reheat the entire pan of bread pudding in a water bath in a 350°F oven until the center is warm. Or, for individual portions, slice and reheat in your microwave or toaster oven.
  2. The caramel can be covered and stored at room temperature for 2 days or covered and refrigerated for up to two weeks ahead of time. Reheat the sauce in a saucepan or in your microwave
  3. In New Orleans, most of us would reach for a loaf of Leidenheimer when making bread pudding but Guas advises that brioche, challah, or even day-old croissants or king cake really take this version over the top.

Double Chocolate Bread Pudding with Salted Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Makes 10-12 servings

For the bread pudding

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 pound brioche bread, crust removed (use for another purpose), and sliced into 1-inch cubes

6 large eggs

1⁄3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 66%–72% cacao), finely chopped

5 1⁄2 cups whole milk

2 1⁄2 cups heavy cream

1 3⁄4 cups sugar

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon

3⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the caramel sauce

1 1⁄2 cups sugar

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon

1⁄4 cup bourbon

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. 

2. Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with the softened butter. Put the bread on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until golden brown, 12-15 minutes, rotating midway through. Set aside to cool.

3. Transfer the bread in the prepared baking dish and set aside. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and set aside then sift the cocoa into a medium bowl and set aside.

4. Add the chopped chocolate to a large bowl. Bring the milk, cream, sugar, cinnamon, and salt to a boil in a large pot, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat, stir in the vanilla, and pour the hot mixture over the chopped chocolate. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, set aside for 5 minutes, and then whisk until smooth.

5. Whisk 1/2 cup of the chocolate mixture into the cocoa, stirring until smooth. Whisk in another 1/2 cup of the chocolate mixture and then whisk in the eggs. Transfer to the large bowl of remaining chocolate mixture and whisk until they are thoroughly incorporated.

6. Pour all but one cup of the chocolate mixture over the bread cubes in the baking dish and set aside so the bread can soak. Press down on the bread with a wooden spoon every 15 minutes for 1 hour, adding the rest of the chocolate mixture after about 30 minutes, or when the bread has soaked up enough so the last cup of liquid will fit.

7. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

8. Cover the bread pudding with aluminum foil and use a paring knife to make four small slits in the foil to allow steam to escape. Set the baking dish in a large roasting pan and place in the oven. Pour enough hot water in the roasting pan so the water reaches 1 inch up the side of the baking dish (if you don’t have a roasting pan large enough to fit the baking dish, set the dish onto a rimmed baking sheet and slide it in the oven, adding enough water to the baking sheet so it cushions the baking dish but doesn’t spill over). Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the pudding begins to puff slightly and the center bounces back to light pressure, about another 25 to 35 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.

To make the sauce:

While the bread pudding cools, make the caramel. Place the sugar in a 2-quart saucepan and add 1/4 cup of water. Cover (or if you cannot find a lid, top the saucepan with a heatproof bowl, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the sugar) and cook over medium heat, swirling the mixture every 1 to 2 minutes, until the sugar is liquefied, about 6 minutes. Continue to cook until the sugar is a medium-amber color, another 4 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the cream (it will vigorously bubble up at first), whisking the mixture until smooth, then add the softened butter, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside and serve with the still-warm bread pudding.

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