Normally I would have baked at least a batch of Christmas cookies by now. But I just haven’t been up for anything at all involved in the kitchen, so I indulged myself by making my very simple stand-by chocolate bread pudding. I usually use egg knot rolls for this, but had noted recipes online that use croissants, especially in making chocolate bread pudding. (If I see any panettone on sale after Christmas, I’ll give that a try.) Some of the recipes I found started off with chocolate croissants, others with plain and added chocolate chips. Of course, the recipes advise you to use croissants that are going stale, but that never happens in my kitchen! I either use them or freeze them promptly, and I’d never throw one away.
Sometimes I see “day-old” bakery items on sale at ShopRite, so looked for that shelf first, to no avail on the day I was there. So I just purchased two plain croissants (since I make a small batch) and let them sit around for a couple of days. I’ve made chocolate bread pudding so many times, I don’t even look up a recipe any more. I just cut up the bread into approximately 1-inch cubes and put them in a buttered purple (!) glass baking dish I’ve had for ages (Pyrex?). The dish is on the small size so if I do use someone’s recipe I usually have to cut it down a bit.
I sprinkle the bread with chocolate chips or chunks, maybe 1/2 cup. I jostle the bread a little to be sure the chocolate “filters down” a bit. This time I got fancy and also added a sprinkling of candied orange peel I had on hand, and that was a nice addition, as would be orange zest added to the liquids.
In a small bowl I beat two eggs and about a cup of milk or whatever dairy I have on hand. I mix in 1/4 cup of sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla (sometimes I just use vanilla sugar), and a glug of orange liqueur – inexpensive Triple Sec is fine, or you can use the fancy stuff like Grand Marnier or Cointreau. I pour that over the bread, pressing down on the bread lightly to encourage it to soak up the moisture.
Generously sprinkle the top with coarse raw sugar and bake uncovered at 350° for about 35-40 minutes. If it’s still jiggly in the middle, the custard likely hasn’t set. Many recipes suggest a water bath, but I don’t bother. The top will be puffed (don’t get excited, that won’t last) and crunchy. Somehow I restrain myself and let it cool for about 20 minutes before serving.
Bread pudding is one of those things that, once you master it, you can make it your own. I’ve never cared for the dense kind with raisins served up at so many places, but make it lighter and add some interesting flavors, and I’m a goner. I might try a lemony version soon, with dollops of curd and Limoncello…