Dark & Sweet Bread Pudding
In my search for seasonal sweets to celebrate Cupid’s big day, I immediately fell head over heels in love with this recipe the moment I laid eyes on it in my RSS feed. Two of my favorite flavors in the entire world – pumpkin and dark chocolate – combined into a rich and comforting bread pudding. But, to tell the truth, there was an immense foreboding in my mind as I chopped up my very last winter squash for the year. I couldn’t stop myself from wondering, “Am I being greedy? Is this demanding too much of the culinary fates to have both chocolate and pumpkin in one dessert? Will the whole dish become a muddled mess of flavor that doesn’t satisfy either craving for warmly spiced pumpkin or intense 75% cocoa?”
I know that the marriage of chocolate and pumpkin is nothing new, and I’ve actually enjoyed a pie made of both that was indeed quite tasty. Generally speaking though, this combo does seem to always disappoint ever so slightly. But who am I to resist such temptations even in the face of possible folly? To be completely blunt, I am somebody who has one hell of a weakness for both chocolate and pumpkin and thus no ability to resist.
Let me just cut to the chase. This bread pudding is ethereal in its complex balancing act of these two domineering flavors. Neither diva gets to take center stage, but they both get to show off the best of their personalities. I think it’s the thick cubes of sweet challah that we have to thank for that. It cushions both the pumpkin and chocolate like delicate tissue paper keeping antique dishes from uncomfortably banging together. That analogy’s not working for you? Okay, the challah is like the moist layers in a wedding cake separating what would be otherwise overpowering and competing filling flavors like lemon curd and raspberry. Long story short, this dish is utterly amazing.
Now, a word or two of advice on the two main ingredients. First, use good dark chocolate here people. Don’t go skimping by using up the last of the brittle Hersey fun-size bars from the kids’ Halloween party. I have a block of outstanding dark chocolate I got from a gourmet bulk food store that nearly cost what some of us might put towards a monthly car payment. But it was worth every penny because it tastes phenomenal and, as most everything bought in bulk is, it wound up being cheaper than the Hershey bar at the end of the day.
As for the “pumpkin”, you’ll notice I used a butternut squash. It’s a lesser known fact that most any winter squash with a bulging collar at the base of the its stem where it connects to the body can be used for any recipe calling for pumpkin. In fact, some – myself included – might argue that other varieties of winter squash make a better “pumpkin” than pumpkin itself does. I’ll make this dish again sometime in the future with your standard orange seamed orb, but I’m fairly confident that it won’t be quite as good since the butternut squash used this time is more flavorful and just a tad bit sweeter so it stood up to the dark intensity of the chocolate.
All debates and quandaries aside, I really must say this is probably my favorite dessert to date on SFTF. Make yourself a generous bowl of real whipped cream (1 cup heavy cream beat on high with 2 tablespoons of superfine sugar until stiff peaks form) to lather on top, and you’ll have nary a care or a craving in the world…until you hit the bottom of the bowl.
Roasted Pumpkin and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding
Taken from What’s For Lunch, Honey?
1 C. heavy cream
1 medium sized winter squash (pumpkin, butternut, etc.)
½ C. whole milk
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
½ C. sugar
6 T. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 t.ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/8 t. ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of salt
4 C. challah bread, cubed
½ C. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F. Peel the winter squash, remove the seeds and cut it into 2 inch chunks. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray and lay out the pumpkin pieces in a single layer. Roast in the oven until soft, making sure the pumpkin does not get too dark, about 45 minutes. Purée roasted pumpkin until smooth.
In a large mixing bowl whisk together pumpkin, cream, milk, sugar, salt, eggs and egg yolk, and spices. In a separate bowl, toss the challah cubes with the butter, then pour in the pumpkin mixture. Mix to coat.
Transfer the bread mixture to an ovenproof baking dish sprayed with nonstick spray. Sprinkle the coarsely chopped chocolate pieces, giving a gentle mix so that the pieces are evenly distributed.
Bake in preheated oven until set, about 30 minutes. Best served warm but also tasty cold. Store, covered, in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.