Chocolate & Cherry Bread Pudding

Chocolate & Cherry Bread Pudding
It’s only been three weeks since Thanksgiving. In the inevitable push forward of the holiday season, that meal seems like a distant memory. I might be partly to blame for the rush to December. Instead of bringing pie or another traditional autumnal dessert to the Thanksgiving meal, I made bread pudding. Baked in a rectangular dish, this was an easy oven-to-table recipe to feed a crowd.

This year I just didn’t have the time to fool with a fussy dessert, and since there are no pumpkin fans in our family, I baked chocolate & cherry bread pudding. Cubes of buttery brioche were soaked in chocolate custard. I folded in dried tart cherries and semisweet chocolate chunks. With its crisp edges and gooey middle, I finished off the bread pudding  with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

Chocolate & Cherry Bread Pudding

Chocolate & Cherry Bread Pudding

Serves 8-10

Adapted from Gail Simmons

1 pound brioche or challah, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
1 cup boiling water
1 cup dried tart cherries
8 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for greasing dish
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
Confectioners’ sugar for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch by 11-inch baking dish with butter.

Place the brioche in a single layer on a large sheet pan. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until toasted and light golden brown. In a small bowl, pour boiling water over the cherries. Once they plump up, drain the water.

Put the dark chocolate in a large bowl. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and then whisk in the milk and sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer and pour over the chocolate. Wait 5 minutes before stirring until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. Add the brioche tossing to coat and let sit for 15 minutes before adding the cherries and semisweet chocolate chunks.

Transfer the brioche mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake until the pudding is set, about 50 minutes. Wait 10 minutes before serving. Bread pudding can also be eaten at room temperature or cold. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Everything Crackers

Everything Crackers
I usually don’t keep crackers at home. All to familiar with my lack of self-control, I know I can easily scarf down more than half a box in mindless snacking session. Even though I avoid crackers in my pantry, December brings holiday parties and family gatherings where cheese plates and bottomless bowls of dip are surrounded by piles of those addictive, crisp salty bites.

Giving into my craving, I baked homemade crackers, which seemed like a better option than reaching for a box. I used a fluted pastry cutter to slice them into long, elegant straws, but they also would have worked as squares, rectangles or rounds. A combination of dried spices including minced garlic and onion along with poppy and sesame seeds turned them into everything crackers.

Everything Crackers
Everything Crackers
Adapted from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon

For dough
2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for work surface and pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon back pepper
1 large egg
1/3 cup canola oil plus more for pans
1/4 to 1/2 cup cold water

For topping
2 teaspoons dried minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

For the dough, in the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper until combined. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and oil and pulse in the food processor until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. With the motor running, drizzle in the water, as needed, until the dough forms.

On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough in half and shape into two 12-inch wide squares. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

For the topping, in a small bowl combine the garlic, onion, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 2 sheet pans with oil and dust with flour.

Roll out the dough, maintaining its square shape, until it is 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Use the tines of a fork to prick the dough. Brush with water and sprinkle on the topping, Use a rolling pin to lightly press the toppings into the dough. Cut the dough into 1-inch squares, 2 by 3-inch rectangles or long thin straws. For rounds or other shapes, use cookie cutters.

Transfer the crackers to the prepared sheet pans and bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Cool the crackers completely before storing in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Birthday Cupcakes

Birthday Cupcakes
During the preparations leading up to W’s first birthday party, there was a period when I debated whether to make him a healthy cake free of sugar and all the ingredients that make baked goods so delicious. Then I realized that no matter how much I continued delaying sugar, W was going to have a sweet tooth no matter what. It is in his DNA. Also, it would have taken away from the celebration not to let him have actual cake.

As a kid, birthdays in our family meant chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting, so I kept with that classic combination. I baked several batches of birthday cupcakes for our guests, and I used the same batter for a 4-inch diameter smash cake for W. Keeping with the party’s alphabet theme, I topped each cupcake with a letter emblazoned flag. The little chocolate cakes were a hit with everyone including the birthday boy.

Birthday Cupcakes
Birthday Cupcakes
(Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting)
Adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang

Makes 12 cupcakes

For cupcakes
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For frosting
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 2-inch cubes
1-2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Place the chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, combine the sugar, butter and water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar and butter have melted. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and cocoa powder whisking until the chocolate is smooth. Then whisk the egg, egg yolk and vanilla into the chocolate.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until fully combined. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 1 hour or up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Divide the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes until the cupcakes spring back when pressed in the center. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before removing them from the pan.

For the frosting, combine the granulated sugar and egg whites in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water over low heat. (Make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl.) Heat the mixture until it is hot to the touch and the sugar has melted, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Transfer the sugar-egg white mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat for 6-8 minutes until it becomes a light, white meringue. Mix in the butter a few chunks at a time until fully combined. Then add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, milk and vanilla extract and continue beating on medium speed until smooth and shiny.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, use a pastry bag fitted with a round or star tip to pipe the frosting or spread it with a spatula.

The cupcakes can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature, but they taste best the day they are baked.

Note: The cupcakes can be baked and frozen up to 1 month prior to frosting. Wrap each cupcake in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

Pomegranate Margaritas

Pomegranate Margaritas
When I have people over, I want to make all the food that will be served from scratch. No ready-made shortcuts. I know I put far too much pressure on myself when the point of seeing friends and family is to catch up and enjoy each other’s company not to have haute cuisine at home. Perhaps it’s because I have a food blog that I feel the need to aspire to domestic perfection. As my husband has to remind me on a regular basis, no one is expecting me to be Martha Stewart.

This was certainly the case with W’s first birthday party. For weeks I had the crazy ambition to cook everything including baking the cake. One night awake at 2:00am, I came to my senses. I decided to have the party catered by our favorite taquieria and add a few select homemade elements. I tripled this recipe for pomegranate margaritas for a fun seasonal cocktail. The dark pink hue looked quite festive served in a big glass beverage dispenser allowing guests to help themselves.

Pomegranate Margaritas
Pomegranate Margaritas
Adapted from Food & Wine November 2005

Serves 8

1-3/4 cups chilled pomegranate juice
Kosher salt
1-1/2 cups silver tequila
1 cup triple sec
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
Ice cubes
8 lime slices for garnish

Pour 1/4 cup pomegranate juice into a bowl wide enough for a margarita glass. Spread the kosher salt on a small plate. Dip the rims of the margarita glasses into the juice and then into the salt.

In a large pitcher, combine the remaining pomegranate juice, tequila, triple sec and lime juice. In batches, shake in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into the glasses. Garnish with a lime slice before serving.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...