Chockful of chocolate and cherries, this bread pudding will make your Yuletide a dream come true

·5-min read
Chockful of chocolate and cherries, this bread pudding will make your Yuletide a dream come true. – Pictures by CK Lim
Chockful of chocolate and cherries, this bread pudding will make your Yuletide a dream come true. – Pictures by CK Lim

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 25 — There will be eggnog and there will be mince pies. A roast turkey, perhaps, though a roast duck or ham might be more manageable (and tastier too). Stuffing and cranberry sauce. Rum balls and candy canes. Trifles and fruitcakes.

Christmastime is party time, when friends and family gather. One cooks for many, and the many bring with them ravenous appetites. It’s what one does.

Unless one does not. Unless there is no gathering. A Christmas for one.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t take a pandemic or mandatory isolation for one to relish seclusion. Time away from the rest of the world. Peace on Earth could simply mean peace of mind and some quiet, please.

Use any type of bread for this pudding, but make sure it’s stale so it soaks up the custard better..
Use any type of bread for this pudding, but make sure it’s stale so it soaks up the custard better..

But even hermits have to eat. Recluses don’t have to go hungry; no, indeed they could even feast, should they put their minds to it.

With the air conditioning turned on low (you imagine it’s a white winter outside, with pristine snow and the gentle padding of Santa’s reindeer), what could be better than cuddling up on the sofa with a warm bowl of bread pudding?

Chockful of chocolate and cherries, this pudding is, if only to make the custardy baked brioche more decadent. (You’re allowed; it’s Christmas!) You settle down for a few hours of binge watching: Henry Cavill in a terrible wig doing terrible things to terrible monsters.

Holiday viewing isn’t what it used to be, and what a blessing this is!

Milk, cream and eggs for the custard mixture.
Milk, cream and eggs for the custard mixture.

It’s a Yuletide dream come true: peace and quiet from the hordes (at least till the new year encroaches, when it’s back to the workday grind), and a comforting spoonful of a festive bread pudding. And then another.

Who’s to say you’ve had too much? There’s no one here but you, after all. That’s the entire point. That’s the finest reason to celebrate.

BREAD PUDDING WITH CHOCOLATE & CHERRIES

Always use stale or leftover bread for your bread pudding. Beyond a sense of thriftiness, fresh bread is too moist and wouldn’t absorb as much of the custard mixture as you’d like. Dry bread is like a sponge; imagine it soaking up all that milk, cream and eggs!

I like using brioche, but in all honesty any kind of bread would work. I have used sourdough before and plain white bread. If you have some leftover panettone, use that; it’s so rich already that the resultant bread pudding would be sinful in the best possible way.

Sweet cherries add a festive note to this bread pudding.
Sweet cherries add a festive note to this bread pudding.

But don’t fret if you only have ordinary sandwich bread; that’s what the inclusion of chocolate and cherries are for — a little bit of added spark. One way to mix things up is to use a variety of each ingredient: brioche and sourdough; dark and milk chocolates; cherries and other fruit such as blueberries and raspberries.

If there is any time of the year for going over the top, surely ‘tis the season for it.

For those who like their Yuletide desserts a little boozy, consider adding some bourbon or other types of whiskey to the bread. Rum and marsala wine would work great too. What you get is an extra layer of flavour notes — caramel and butterscotch, vanilla and honey — from the judicious use of liquor in baking.

Ingredients

4-6 slices leftover bread, cut into thick chunks

50g butter

50g chocolate chips

50g cherries, pitted and sliced into halves

Ground nutmeg, for sprinkling

Ground cinnamon, for sprinkling

300ml milk

100ml cream

2 whole eggs

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or fresh vanilla seeds

2 tablespoons of bourbon or other whisky (optional)

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Method

If not already sliced, cut your leftover bread into thick slices. Spread one side of each slice with butter, reserving some to grease the dish later.

Cut the buttered slices further into thick chunks. This will create more surface area for crusty edges when the bread pudding is baked.

Grease a 1-litre oven proof rectangular dish with the remaining butter. Arrange a layer of the buttered bread (about half of what you have) on the base of the dish, making sure the entire base is covered with no empty spaces.

Follow this bread layer by a layer of chocolate chips and cherries. Again, sprinkle generously to make sure all the bread chunks are covered with the chocolate chips and cherries.

Try using both dark and milk chocolates (left). Sugar with a whiff of vanilla (right).
Try using both dark and milk chocolates (left). Sugar with a whiff of vanilla (right).

Cover with one final layer of the bread until the remainder is used up. Dust this top bread layer lightly with nutmeg and cinnamon. Set aside.

Add the milk and cream to a saucepan. Gently warm over low heat, but do not let it boil. Set aside.

Crack the eggs into a medium-sized bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of sugar and the vanilla extract (or fresh vanilla seeds). Whisk lightly till pale and airy.

Pour the warm milk-cream mixture over the eggs, making sure to whisk continuously until everything is incorporated.

Next pour this custard mixture evenly over the bread layers until it’s all used up. Add the bourbon at this stage if using, spooning it as evenly over the soaked bread as you can manage.

Sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of sugar and more nutmeg and cinnamon, if desired. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the bread to fully soak up the liquids.

Crusty edges and a dusting of sugar – just like snow!
Crusty edges and a dusting of sugar – just like snow!

Preheat your oven to 180C.

After 30 minutes, place the pudding dish into the oven. Bake for 30–40 minutes, or until the top of the pudding is golden brown.

Cut into slices and place on serving plates. Dust with some powdered sugar, if desired. Serve warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.

For more Weekend Kitchen and other slice-of-life stories, visit lifeforbeginners.com.

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