|Chocolate Bread Pudding, from 2006|
Funny how traditions start: For me, this is a chocolate time of year. It began one Thanksgiving when I was stuck in Madison, with a weekend job and an anthropology paper due Monday.
The paper was a critique of Laurence Wylie's "A Village in the Vaucluse," a look at rural Provence around 1950. But on Thanksgiving Day, after consuming a chicken dinner for one (I had no invitations that year, but that suited me fine), I spent the long afternoon reading Colette's "Claudine."
And at dusk, I ate a hastily-thrown together chocolate soufflé. Somehow, Colette makes me crave chocolate. So does November, when darkness comes early bringing with it a chill and on windy nights, the sound of dead leaves scuttling across the pavement.
So tonight, with my mom coming for supper, we had chocolate bread pudding for dessert. It has a layered taste, not unlike wine. Fresh out of the oven, the pudding offered an aftertaste of ripe olives, my husband thought. Warmed over, it tasted very decadent.
Chocolate Bread Pudding with Cognac and Cointreau
- 4 cups stale French or Italian bread
- 4 large eggs
- one cup sugar
- 1/2-cup brown sugar
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup baking cocoa
- pinch salt
- 1/2 cup cognac
- 1/4 cup cointreau
- 1 - 1 2/2 cups quality semi-sweet chocolate pieces
If the bread is very dry, soak it in two percent milk. While bread is soaking, combine all other ingredients in a large bowl. Add the bread to the bowl and allow the entire mix to stand for a while, even overnight in the refrigerator, if you like.
Pour into greased casserole or large soufflé dish. I used two medium-sized ramekins and four small ones. Bake in a preheated, 325 oven until puddings are slightly firm —— about 30 minutes (but check frequently).
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and top candied orange peel. I served mine plain, and they were fine.
When I lived in Green Bay a decade or so ago, my friends and I used to go to a wonderful downtown restaurant called "La Bonne Femme," where the dessert menu included a deep chocolate cream dish. On November days, that was always what I wanted.