Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding
Let me preface this with two things; one, I am not a huge bread pudding fan and two, I have never made it before. Being confident in my skills, I pulled out my trusty cookbooks and skimmed the internet, comparing recipes and styles. Nothing really sounded right in my brief search, so I borrowed a little from each one.
Ingredients are important, easily as important as understanding the basic chemistry of cooking. But more often than not, you must improvise. Rather than spend time and money searching for the perfect thing, you just use whatever is handy. A willingness to experiment and fail are important parts of learning, especially in the kitchen.
So I had a loaf of challah in the freezer, not the greatest but it’s hard to find really good challah in this part of Colorado and bread-making is not yet in my repertoire. It was taking up space better suited for new things and thus it got used. I had to pick up more eggs and cream, but the bananas were going to turn soon.
As an aside, there are things that are best kept stocked in your pantry. AP flour, the three sugars, vanilla, cocoa powder and a healthy collection of spices. Do I need to mention salt and pepper? Buy your herbs fresh when possible though.
I also happen to keep bourbon in the house, though now I’m curious as to how this would have turned out with Irish whiskey. And I always wanted to learn to make caramel, having watched it done many times over the years. So with a half-formed plan in my head and a half-naked toddler tearing through the house, I set about with The Great Bread Pudding Adventure!
Prep time: A while, depending on how you manage yourself in the kitchen. I made the caramel while the bread soaked.
Cook time: 30 – 45 min, plus 45 to set.
One medium sized loaf of challah, diced into one inch cubes, approx 8 cups
2 large bananas, sliced 1/4in thick
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups 2% or Whole milk
4 whole large eggs and one yolk
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 T melted butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup bourbon (I used Larceny, 92 proof because that’s what was here)
1 T vanilla extract (get the real deal, never the fake crap)
A pinch or two of salt
First, set your oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 13×9 baking dish with butter. I used a Pyrex as opposes to something metal.
In a very large mixing bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, salt, butter and cocoa powder until incorporated. Cocoa powder may be clumpy, don’t panic. Add in bourbon and vanilla, keep whisking. Slowly incorporate the milk and cream until a smooth proto-custard forms. Your arm will be tired and the liquid will smell delicious. Add your bread cubes and stir so that they soak evenly. Throw the bananas in too. Ignore for 30 min. Go make some caramel (recipe below).
Once the caramel is finished and cooled slightly, pour bread and custard mixture into baking dish, drizzle caramel over and swirl through artistically.
Put in preheated oven uncovered for 30-45 minutes. The top and edges will be crisp, the center will still jiggle a bit and the bread will be starting to rise out of the pan like a decadent leviathan. Let it set for 45 min before serving!
Caramel is tricky, temperamental and easy to mess up if you take a step too early or late. And as I mentioned earlier, I’d never made it before, but I think it turned out well.
Prep/cook time: 20min
2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup bourbon
1 T vanilla
Pinch of salt
You’ll want to use a deep saucepan with a heavy bottom, at least 2 qt in size. I used a 1.5 gal stockpot. When you add the cream to the cooked sugar, it will froth and bubble viciously. Having it in something deep will prevent needless panic as your sugary delight threatens to replicate a third-grade volcano.
So in your deep pot, combine the sugar and water and cook over high heat. The sugar will dissolve and boil, about 5 – 8 min. Turn it down to medium and let it cook until the sugar is thick, bubbly and starting to turn a deep amber color.
In a separate pan, heat bourbon, cream, vanilla and salt until it just begins to simmer and hold at a low heat until he sugar is ready.
Once the sugar starts to look like the right color, slowly add the cream mixture a quarter at a time, whisking to keep it smooth. It will be syrupy and a little loose, so return to a boil for just another minute or two, whisking occasionally to keep it from crystallizing. It will still seem loose, but will thicken as it cools. The batch yields about 2 cups, the bread pudding takes a cup.
And here you have it! Enjoy!