Chocolate Walnut Bread Pudding

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To me, bread pudding is a classic comfort food dessert. My mother made it often, and each time she did, she would tell me that hers was never as delectable as was her mother’s sister, Bulah’s. Mama would compare her feelings for Aunt Bulah’s bread pudding, to those of someone who’d gone off to college and missed the taste of their mother’s cooking back home. She would tell me that whenever she went to New Orleans, where Aunt Bulah owned and operated her own, neighborhood grocery store, bread pudding was the first thing that she requested. Whenever I make bread pudding, or eat someone else’s, I think of Aunt Bulah, and how Mama mourned the taste of her aunt’s pudding.

I also think of the little dresses that Aunt Bulah had a well-known, local seamstress make for me while we were vising one Holiday season. It was my birthday and Christmas—my birthday is four days before Christmas—and there was no snow in New Orleans, to play in. I remember pouting and fidgeting during my sittings and not being pleased at all…to be honest, I remember being quite disgusted with the whole thing. I had just turned four, and the dresses were Birthday gifts for me. To make matters worse, Aunt Bulah gave me an engraved flatware set for Christmas—not the toys I had envisioned. My saving grace was the “big” Christmas gift that my parents had waiting for me when we returned.
Back at home, my father met us at the train station, grinning like a cat. My “big” surprise turned out to be a newly painted bedroom, a new canopy bed, and a little girl’s vanity table. I remember crying like a broken faucet. In my mind, it was the worst birthday and Christmas ever…no stuffed dolls, or crayons and coloring books, or play tea sets.

For some reason, the smell and taste of bread pudding always whisks me back to my childhood. I sure hope my parents and aunt, know that I think of them and their love often. I hope when they’re sitting back, reminiscing about their lives here on earth, the memory of a little child pouting because she didn’t get the toys, or the Holiday snow that she had wanted, is as funny to them, as it is to me.

I wonder too, how many of us are still pouting, still overlooking the sweet things that people do to show us their love, like…shoveling the snow, mowing the lawn, washing the car, cleaning it out, fixing a leaky faucet, oiling a squeaky door, carrying in the groceries, sitting with us when we’re sick, making the decisions we’d rather not make….

For The Chocolate Bread Pudding

1 (1-pound) day-old French, Challah, or Italian bread, crusts removed and cut into ½- inch cubes
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
1-½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, at room temperature
7 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup good quality cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 ounces of good quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely grated
Whipped cream, optional

For The Chocolate Sauce

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon instant coffee granules
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan, over low heat, combine the heavy cream, unsalted butter, and granulated sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cocoa powder and instant coffee granules. Add the light corn syrup and salt, whisking until each ingredient is dissolved and incorporated into the heavy cream. Continue to whisk the sauce, until it is smooth. Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract. Serve the sauce, warm, over the chocolate bread pudding.
Makes about 2-½ cups of chocolate sauce.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13-inch-by-9-inch glass baking dish. Set the dish aside.
To make the bread pudding, arrange the bread cubes in the dish. Carefully, fold in the chopped walnuts. In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the melted, unsalted butter, half-and-half, heavy cream, and ground cinnamon. Add the large eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the large egg yolks. Beat the mixture just until it is mixed well. Add the granulated sugar, light brown sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix well. Add the vanilla extract. Mix well. Stir the grated chocolate into the half-and-half mixture. Mix well. Pour the mixture over the cubed bread and nuts. Let the bread pudding stand, stirring occasionally, until the bread cubes absorb most of the half-and-half mixture. NOTE: I use the back of a large spoon to gently push the bread cubes down to help them absorb the half-and-half mixture more quickly. Place the pudding in the preheated 350-degree oven. Bake it at 350 degrees, for about 40 to 50 minutes, or until the pudding is golden brown on top and set in the middle; when the pudding is done, it should still have a slight wiggle to it, but a wooden toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean. While the bread pudding is baking, make the chocolate sauce.
Take the bread pudding out of the oven. Let it cool about 15 minutes, on a wire rack before serving. Serve with homemade chocolate sauce and a dab of fresh whipped cream on top. Actually, the pudding tastes wonderful, when you serve it cold, with warm chocolate sauce.

To make the chocolate sauce, in a heavy saucepan, set over low heat, combine the heavy cream, unsalted butter, and granulated sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cocoa powder and instant coffee granules. Add the light corn syrup and salt, whisking until each ingredient is dissolved and incorporated into the heavy cream. Continue to whisk the sauce, until it is smooth. Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract. Serve the sauce, warm, over the chocolate bread pudding.
Makes about 2-½ cups of chocolate sauce.

Makes One 13-by-9-inch Chocolate Bread Pudding.


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