A Little Bread Pudding for Lundi Gras
It’s ironic that I’ve named this blog pain perdu, and have never posted a recipe for “lost bread,” but since it’s Lundi Gras today, and there will be Lundi Gras parties this evening, and Mardi Gras brunches tomorrow morning happening all over New Orleans, I am correcting that right now by sharing a special New Orleans treat. Yes, it’s served at brunch, dessert, for afternoon snack- anytime. My brother, Eric, who lives in New Orleans and has become quite the savvy host, serves it often for breakfast and brunch.
Ah- right, I know most of you are thinking pain perdu/lost bread is French toast, but I say that bread pudding is at least as luscious a use for leftover “lost” bread and, in fact, far more common in New Orleans than French toast.
Bread pudding was one of the few desserts regularly served in the New Orleans families which I have been a part of. It was the only dessert (and one of the few foods generally) I remember my maternal grandmother, Mama Dear, making. She would soak the stale French bread for hours, sometimes overnight even. And it was, by far, my father’s favorite dessert. I have told this story many times – when I lived in New York, I fell in love with a particular cheesecake there, and thought I would treat my family back in Los Angeles to this special delicacy. So I carried some on the plane to serve at a birthday dinner in honor of my father. When we had finished eating dessert, he had this to say, “hmph- it’s not as good as bread pudding.”
New Orleanians can be set in their ways – for them bread pudding is made with stale French bread. On a visit a few years back, I was at one of Eric’s brunches where he made a pre-Mardi Gras bread pudding with leftover King Cake, which is ubiquitous this time of year. It was beautiful with purple and green flecks in its crust where the sprinkles and glitter had melted into it.
A friend of his looked askance at it, asking incredulously, “You made bread pudding with King Cake?”
“It’s perfect for bread pudding” I replied, with Eric concurring, “ yes, I thought so, too.”
Here in L.A., I make my bread pudding with whatever is on hand, but my favorite lost breads now, are leftover croissants, Danish pastry and brioche, Fortunately, I had some leftover from a recent catering gig to make this one. I also now make it in all sorts of molds. (Eric made his that morning in a pot resembling a Charlotte mold-it was lovely). I made these this morning in individual ramekins. Oh yes, and one of the croissants was a chocolate croissant, so I went with it, and added more chocolate chunks to the mix-such a versatile dessert!
Sooooo good- Enjoy!
Laissez les bontemps roulez!
Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding
- 5 ounces of stale croissant, Danish pastry or brioche cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 cups half and half
- 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon best quality vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 ounces sugar
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1 ounce (in addition to chocolate in croissant) best quality dark chocolate, cut into chunks
- Prepare 6-4 ounce ramekins by buttering them well, and dusting with sugar.
- Scrape the seeds of the half vanilla bean, if using, into the cream and add the pod to the cream also. Scald the half and half with the vanilla.
- Whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar. Then pour the scaled cream in a slow steady stream into the sugar-egg mixture whisking the whole time.
- Fold the bread cubes to the cream/egg mixture, and let sit for about 20 minutes.
- Using a scoop or cup measure, fill the ramekins with the bread mixture. Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until set, slightly brown and puffed up.
- Serve either in the ramekin or unmold on to a plate, and nap with a chocolate sauce or Crème Anglaise.
Makes @ 8 1/2 cup ramekin servings