Before we moved to this little Wisconsin town, I worked in advertising and public relations in a larger city. One of my jobs each November was to write copy for a small bakery that specialized in Christmas desserts and cheesecakes.
The owner, a San Francisco native who knew her sweets, offered fabulous fruit-and-chocolate combinations laced with rum and bourbon and dappled with nuts: Dark chocolate and pumpkin, bittersweet chocolate with cherry, milk chocolate and raspberry.
Creating the bakery's annual brochure whetted my appetite for such things. Usually, I succumbed, at least once. Fortunately, the bakery offered dessert by the slice.
I had such a craving yesterday. It's that time of year again. I had a lot of hard French rolls from LaBrea Bakeryin my freezer and a bag of cranberries and I wanted to use them up. I adapted this dessert from Epicurious. The original calls for six cups of torn-up croissants.
Pain Au Chocolate Pudding with Cranberries
6 cups stale bread, rolls or croissants, cut into bite-size cubes
1-2 cups milk, depending on how hard the rolls are
5 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate baking chips
1 1/2 cups fresh or unthawed frozen cranberries
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar or fructose
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into bits
pinch sea salt
If bread or rolls are hard, soak them in milk for about an hour.
While rolls are soaking, butter a shallow baking dish or casserole dish and chop cranberries.
Once the rolls have softened, break them into small pieces and arrange half in one layer in baking dish. Layer with chocolate and then cranberries. Top with remaining rolls, shiny side up.
Blend eggs, sugar, milk, cream, vanilla, and salt and pour slowly and evenly over bread. Dot pudding with butter bits and sprinke with salt. Chill for at least an hour.
Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until top is golden brown and bubbly.
Note: If sugar and calories are not an issue for you, serve this with a hot sauce made of heavy cream and chocolate or concoct one on your own. I think an orange-chocolate sauce would be nice.
The pudding is sweet, but the cranberries provide balance for the chocolate.