Monday, January 9, 2012

Sea Salt Caramel Bread Pudding with Chocolate Chips

So last weekend we had the "fun" task of trying to use up a lot of our leftovers from the holidays.  Not that these things had been sitting around decaying and getting nasty, but my freezer space was filling up and it was time to "use or lose" a few things.  We made a delicious Jambalaya with Portuguese linguica sausage and the last container of Turkey Gumbo from Thanksgiving, and I used the frozen leftover sourdough bread and croissants from Christmas to make this really tasty bread pudding.

The original recipe came from a Williams Sonoma catalog a couple years ago.  This dessert is perfect for January, rich and sticky but not cloyingly sweet.  It is actually a fairly elegant bread pudding and is the perfect foil for a scoop of ice cream.  I particularly like to serve this with a good coffee ice cream because I love the combination of coffee and caramel.

This is a messy recipe.  It uses a lot of bowls and pots and pans, but is really worth the effort.  It is also a very exciting (if not terrifying) recipe to make.  When the hot milk is added to the molten caramel, the resulting release of steam is a lot like when a river of lava meets the ocean!  If you use proper caution and work methodically, this can be done without injury!  Make sure to cook the caramel to a very deep amber or the caramel flavor will not be detectable.

Amazingly this recipe has no booze in it!  It certainly tastes like it is loaded with good bourbon or rum, but there is none in the cooking.  I however would not be averse to pouring a little Kahlua or Baileys over this to make a perfect companion sauce.  I usually like to serve this with a good coffee ice cream because I love the combination of coffee and caramel.  If you want to make your own coffee ice cream, here is my recipe: coffee ice cream.

Sea Salt Caramel Bread Pudding with Chocolate Chips
serves 8

4- 5 cups leftover stale bread (challah, croissant, pannetone, sourdough etc) cut into 1/2 -inch cubes
1 2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp sea salt
4 cups whole milk
8 Tbsp butter (1 stick)
5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place Bread cubes on a baking sheet and dry in 350 F oven for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.  Remove from oven and cool.

 In a large glass bowl combine milk and butter and microwave on high until milk is hot and butter is melted. 

In a large heavy pot (a dutch oven is perfect), combine sugar, water and corn syrup and salt.  Place over high heat and stir just to combine.  Bring to a boil and continue to cook over high heat until sugar has caramelized and is a deep amber color.  Remove from heat.

VERY CAREFULLY add the hot milk mixture to the caramel, a little at a time.  This will VIOLENTLY  bubble and froth!  Stir continuously, adding milk a little at a time until all the milk has been added an the mixture has stopped violently boiling.  The milk solids will curdle slightly, but don't worry this is normal.  Let cool for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla until well mixed.  Add caramel mixture to eggs, a little at a time, whisking constantly to prevent cooking the eggs, until all the caramel and eggs have been combined.  Add the dried bread cubes and toss to coat.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Transfer  1/3 of the bread pudding to a well-buttered 3 quart baking dish and sprinkle with 1/2 of the chocolate chips.  Add another third of the pudding on top and sprinkle with remaining chocolate.  Cover with remaining bread mixture.

Transfer baking dish to a large baking pan with high sides and pour hot water around baking dish until it reaches half-way up the sides.  Bake, uncovered at 350F for one hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.   Serve hot or warm with fresh fruit, or ice cream (I love coffee ice cream with this).

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