This updated classic is adapted from Christian Constant, one of Paris's most creative chocolatiers. Easy to make but grand enough for a special dinner, it is studded with candied ginger and candied or dried fruit, rich with eggs and luxuriant with chocolate. The bread pudding emerges from the oven puffed and covered with a light sugar crackle.
Make Ahead: The bread pudding can be assembled, covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day in advance. Return to room temperature before serving.
Servings: 8 - 12
- Butter for baking dish
- 8 ounces assorted candied fruit or dried fruit, such as cherries or apricots, coursely chopped
- 3 knobs stem ginger packed in syrup (see NOTE), drained and patted dry, or candied ginger, finely chopped (optional, or may substitute an additional 3 ounces candied or dried fruit)
- 9 ounces stale bread, preferably brioche, challah or other egg bread, torn into 2-inch pieces
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 1/4 cups sugar, plus additional for the pan
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 4 large egg yolks
- 9 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position; preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-by-2-inch glass or porcelain baking dish and dust with sugar, tapping out any excess sugar. Place the dish on a baking sheet.
If using dried fruit, plump it by dunking it into a pan of barely boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Drain and pat dry.
Place the fruit, ginger and bread in the baking dish and, using your hands, toss them together.
Bring the milk, sugar and the vanilla bean and seeds to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat; remove the vanilla bean and discard or reserve for another use.
Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and yolks in a bowl for about 1 minute, just until blended. Whisking the eggs constantly, slowly add the hot milk mixture. Working quickly, switch to a rubber spatula, add the chocolate and stir gently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour the chocolate custard through a fine-mesh strainer over the bread and fruit mixture, discarding any solids.
Slide the baking sheet and dish into the oven and bake the pudding for 35 to 45 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the baking dish to a cooling rack and set aside until just warm or at room temperature. (May cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day; return to room temperature before serving.)
NOTE: Stem ginger is a whole knob of ginger that has been candied and saturated with sugar syrup. You can find jars of stem ginger in syrup in the specialty fruit or baking section of supermarkets. You also can find Chinese stem ginger in pottery crocks in Asian markets. If the ginger is not available, substitute candied ginger or plump, dried fruit.
Adapted from "Paris Sweets: Great Desserts From the City's Best Pastry Shops," by Dorie Greenspan (Broadway Books, 2002).
Tested by The Washington Post.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.