Let me repeat this just in case you didn't get the picture: Chocolate with brown butter, made into bread pudding. Total deliciousness. What I love about brown butter, which is just butter melted until the milk solids turn golden brown, is that you get a very special flavor with very little effort. In French cookery it's referred to as Beurre noisette, literally "hazelnut butter," which speaks to the aroma, taste, and depth one little step adds. Sweet, simple butter is transformed into a rich, nutty ambrosia, delicious in sweet and savory dishes alike. I love the interest it brings to chocolate, so for my first attempt at bread pudding I thought "why not?" and I'm so glad I did.
When it comes to chocolate, embellishments can be wonderful but if it's a richer dish I sometimes like to keep it simple. Chocolate is one of those stand alone ingredients, like a steak, where when it's good, it's really really good. You're just there to make sure it's seasoned properly, otherwise, it does its own thing.
For this bread pudding I used brown butter and brown sugar to bring out the depth of the chocolate and highlight the maple/coffee notes that sometimes come through. Served with a dollop of whipped sour cream, this dessert is decadent, but perfectly balanced, and even better the day after. Enjoy!
1 baguette or french loaf, cubed and dry (stale bread is perfect), about 6-7 cups
3 cups half and half
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
6 eggs, lightly beaten
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, grated/chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp sea salt
8 oz creme fraiche or sour cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish or 5-6 12oz ramekins with butter and fill with the bread. Sift the brown sugar and cocoa into the half and half and mix well. Add the vanilla and salt to the beaten eggs. To make the brown butter, melt the butter over medium heat until the milk solids turn golden brown. Take off heat and pour into a bowl to cool (it can still burn in the warm pan). Combing with the egg mixture and add to the milk mixture, mixing well.
Stir the grated chocolate into the mixture. Pour the mixture over the cubed bread in the pan. Let the mixture stand, stirring occasionally for approximately 20 minutes or until bread absorbs most of the milk mixture. Bake the large pudding for 1 hour or 45 minutes in the small ramekins until set in a water bath.
To garnish, whip the creme fraiche until it forms soft peaks with the sugar and vanilla. Top the ramekins with a dollop or serve on the side. Enjoy!