I Wanted to Love It

September 18, 2008

Are you a bread pudding person?  I finally have to admit that I think that I am not.  Sadly.  Because it seems that anything involving such a decadent combination of eggy bread, thick heavy cream, a couple nests’ worth of eggs and a small mountain of sugar should be a hold-the-presses sort of affair.  But instead, I’m just left thinking, “meh.”  I want to like it.  Really I do.   But, instead, I end up thinking how I could’ve traded in the same list of ingredients for a couple delicious bowls of ice cream and a stack of French toast (byo maple syrup, though with this particular bread pudding ingredient list, you could always just douse the French toast with Frangelico; just an idea!).

Bread pudding just seems like it should be such a good idea.  So comforting and rich.  So beautiful, especially just out of the oven when it’s swollen and golden and fragrant.  But I think it’s the culinary equivalent of skinny jeans or mini-skirts or knee-high gladiator sandals: just not for me.  Luckily this particular bread pudding was the end to a nice, lazy dinner with two of our friends who we haven’t seen in too long.  So there was much catching up, slide-showing, Cubs game watching and, yes, wine drinking to make up for the non-show-stopping (at least for me; everything else seemed to think it was fine) dessert.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

Now, I know I’ve severely impaired my credibility on matters of taste when it comes to bread pudding, but I’m going to weigh in on this recipe anyway.  As far as bread puddings go, this one was perfectly fine.  Lovely, even.  I think my slightly-better-than-mediocre verdict on this version has quite a bit to do with the shards of chocolate and bits of toasted hazelnut woven between the cubes of challah.  And the subtle Frangelico dancing in the background pitched in too.  I suppose I figured that if I was going to give bread pudding a shot, I might as well combine it with one of my beloved flavor combinations: chocolate and hazelnut.  And it almost worked.  Almost.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Bread Pudding
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 1-pound challah, crusts trimmed, bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
8 large eggs
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups whole milk
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Combine the bread cubes, chocolate and hazelnuts in 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Whisk eggs, whipping cream, milk, sugar, Frangelico, vanilla extract and almond extract in large bowl to blend. Pour over bread cubes. Let stand 30 minutes, occasionally pressing bread into custard mixture. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bake until pudding is set in center, about 40 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm.


17 Responses to “I Wanted to Love It”

  1. Mia Says:

    I know what you mean about those dessert bread puddings – I think I’d rather just have a brownie and call it a night! However, I do like the carb-y deliciousness of bread pudding, so I sometimes do a much lighter version and call it brunch: whole wheat bread, a couple of eggs, skim milk, some honey/syrup/sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla (and chocolate chips if I’m feeling naughty). Your pudding does look quite pretty, though!

  2. Mia: That sounds completely fantastic. Kind of a french toast casserole, eh? Do you cube the bread or use slices? Better yet, do you have a recipe for it? I don’t remember seeing it on your site. Nudge, nudge. : )

  3. pipee Says:

    I totally feel you here – my boyfriend and his family LOVE bread pudding, but I’ve never been able to get into it. I’d rather have an extremely decadent dessert also!

  4. sue bette Says:

    I am right with you with the sweet bread pudding – but savory bread pudding as an entree when the weather cools can’t be beat (especially if you are entertaining some veggie friends)!

  5. Anna Says:

    I was long sympathetic to these feelings about bread pudding, but then I took a chance on the astoundingly wonderful Carmel, Apricot and Marzipan recipe from Chez Panisse. For the last 5 years, it has been the de rigeur holiday dessert in my exceptionally foodie family. Let me know if you want a copy of the recipe…
    Thanks for the gorgeous and inspiring entries!

  6. janice Says:

    The perfect bread pudding is the Holy Grail for my husband and me when we are at a restaurant. Most of the time, we are really disappointed. When it’s bad, it’s really bad, usally because it’s too dry. But then, every once in a while you get the perfect bread pudding. Moist with a bourbon sauce and just sweet enough. Mmmmmm

  7. Melissa Says:

    I’m right there with you Kristin. It’s a meh. And I know I’ve had it good. It just isn’t for me!

  8. Monica h Says:

    I am so not a bread pudding fan either…though I wanted to be. My husband adores it so I decided to make him chocolate bread pudding (Martha Stewart). I thought “well, of all bread puddings, this one has to be good” it was alright. Though he loved it.

    I’m not a fan and I’ve accepted that. I’ve moved on to bigger and better things.

  9. Amanda Says:

    I am not big advocate of bread pudding, but I think it depends on your recipe too. I think you might’ve needed more chocolate, because if you are going to go all out, you might as well enjoy yourself, right? I made a pumpkin bread pudding from Smitten Kitchen and it would’ve been really good if I had used the correct pan size… I think e both need to do our “homework” and brush up on bread pudding recipes, ok? 🙂

  10. eggsonsunday Says:

    So, I definitely *am* a fan of bread puddings, but I’ve had a number that aren’t good. Like Amanda above said, I think it depends on the recipe — some are too “mushy” for my taste. I think I like the denser not-too-sweet varieties (and LOTS of chocolate if that is a component)…I wish I had a recipe to give you but I don’t make them enough to have a “go-to”. -Amy

  11. pippee: Whew! I was worried I was alone on this one.

    sue bette: Yes! Savory would be much better, I think.

    Anna: I would *love* a copy of the recipe. It sounds really interesting (as do nearly all things Chez Panisse). Would you mind emailing it to me? Email is thekitchensinkblog (at) gmail (dot) com.

    janice: Okay, bourbon is probably the way to convince me. You’ve found my weak spot. : )

    Melissa: Thank you! Me, you and pipee unite!

    Monica h: Yay! Our numbers are swelling! (Though chocolate bread pudding sounds promising.)

    Amanda: I’ve seen that pumpkin bread pudding recipe and it looks so good. I think that’s what I’d need to do — make sure there is some other major component (not just a handful of chocolate & nuts). Thanks for the challenge!

    Amy: Yes, I think this one was a bit to mooshy. And perhaps I was a little light on the chocolate, yes.

    Okay, so you’ve all convinced me not to give up entirely. Such good friends you all are!

  12. Mary Beth Says:

    I have tried to like this – every time Giada De Laurentiis makes one with berries, it looks so good on tv and it never lives up to it’s promise. I have learned that I am not a bread pudding, custard type of dessert person. I am a chocolate ice cream kind of gal – maybe cookies or cake, but if it ain’t got butter, sugar, and chocolate in large amounts, I’m probably not going to like it.

  13. Mary Beth: Oh yes, I am strongly in favor of chocolate ice cream too. Perhaps it’s the butter that’s missing in bread pudding?

  14. Julie Says:

    Your bread pudding looks yummy to me….defintiely a keeper. The recipe the pioneer woman has made a fan out of me, it’s amazing too. But yours has chocolate and her’s doesn’t!

  15. Julie: It seems kind of like a cheap trick, the chocolate. An unfair advantage somehow. : )

  16. Jeanette Says:

    The problem with too many people is they try to “jazz” up bread pudding and that was never the intent of the dessert.

    Originally, women baked bread once a week. They save crusts through out the week and used those crusts and whatever bread was left over at the end of the week and made bread pudding from them. We had bread pudding every Saturday night. I guess you could say it was a waste not, want not dessert, and as such, it should be a simple dessert.

    Bread, eggs, sugar, milk, raisins, vanilla and cinnamon, plain simple ingredients everyone has in their pantry. Simplicity at it’s best so like it or don’t like it but that is what it is, a simple comforting dessert using leftovers. When you try to doctor this dessert, it gets away from the original intent of the dessert. Instead, if you want to jazz it up, serve it with a scoop of icecream or a dollop of whipped cream and perhaps some caramel sauce or some spiced rum sauce.

    Another problem making this dessert, the type of bread used. First of all, it should never be fresh bread and never that sliced bread you can buy. If your bread is fresh, you should cube it and let it out for a day, or bake it in the oven for a bit. Second problem, you must soak the bread long enough in your milk and egg sauce.

    In fact, this is how my mother made her bread pudding. She put the STALE bread, milk, half the sugar and the raisins in a double boiler, brought it to the scald point, then turned down the heat to a low simmer and let the bread cook for an hour or so. Then she beat the eggs with the other half of the sugar and added the vanilla and then combined this with the cooked bread. Then she put it in her baking dish and sprinkled it liberally with cinnamon and baked until nicely browned and a bit crisp around the edges. The bread pudding gets sooooooooo nice and fluffy and high this way. It will deflate somewhat of course when it is removed from the oven, but the pudding is divine and the raisins are sooooooo plumped this way.

  17. Jeanette: Great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

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