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Chocolate bread and butter pudding

(Jonathan levitt for the boston globe)
February 11, 2009

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Serves 4

A simple bread and butter pudding is not only one of the best ways to use stale bread, it's also an elegant and crowd-pleasing dessert that's as easy as French toast. Make a custard by mixing a couple of whole eggs and a couple of yolks with milk, heavy cream, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Use challah, brioche, or old-fashioned white toasting bread. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with chopped dark chocolate or chips. Slice and butter the bread. Then tear the bread into bite-size pieces and lay them on the chocolate. Sprinkle more chocolate on top and pour the custard over everything. Bake the dish in a water bath for about an hour. When the top is golden and the custard is just set, the pudding is done. Dust it with powdered sugar and drizzle with sweet cream. It will be pretty, but dig right in. The proof of the pudding is the eating.

Butter (for the dish)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 slices challah or other soft, rich bread, cut 1/2 inch thick, crusts removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Confectioners' sugar (for sprinkling)
Extra heavy cream (for serving)
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and brown sugar. Add the cream, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt, whisking well to combine them.

3. Spread one side of the bread with the softened butter. Tear the bread into bite-size pieces.

4. Sprinkle the chocolate over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange the bread, buttered sides up, on the chocolate. Sprinkle more chocolate on the bread. Pour the custard into the dish. With a rubber spatula, press the mixture so the bread soaks up the liquids.

5. Set the dish in a roasting pan. Pour warm tap water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

6. Bake the pudding for 1 hour or until the custard is set and the bread is golden and puffy. Let the pudding cool for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Cut into squares and serve with cream.

Jonathan Levitt