CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING WITH BANANAS

“This dessert is for the hard-core chocolate lover. The dense, moist bread pudding literally makes your head buzz when you take a bite. The English toffee adds a
great textural note and a sensual, enriching caramel flavor. The glazed bananas
add more fabulous flavor and a little crunchiness. The preparation can be done
in advance and the dessert can be reheated just before serving, or it can be
served at room temperature.”

Serves 12

3 cups plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
[the very best quality you can afford!]
Chocolate Brioche (recipe follows)
English toffee (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large bananas, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup milk

Method
To make the pudding: Bring 3 cups of the cream to a boil. Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Slowly pour in some of the
hot cream to temper the eggs. Pour the egg mixture into the cream and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the cream mixture over 3 ounces of  the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Place the Chocolate Brioche pieces in a large bowl and pour in the cream mixture. Allow the brioche to soak, turning occasionally, until all of
the liquid is absorbed. Fold in the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate and 1
cup of the English Toffee. Spoon the mixture into a buttered 9- by 9-inch
pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in
the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes and cut into 2- by
3-inch pieces.
To prepare the bananas:
 Brown the butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Toss the bananas in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are slightly brown. Remove the bananas from the pan, turn off the heat, and pour in the remaining 1 tablespoon cream to deglaze the pan, scraping and incorporating any banana sticking to the bottom of the pan. Stir in the milk. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and blend with a handheld blender until frothy.

Assembly

Spoon some of the sautéed bananas in the center of each plate and top with
a piece of bread pudding. Spoon the banana emulsion around the plate and sprinkle with the remaining pieces of English toffee.

Chocolate Brioche

Yield: one 9- by 4-inch loaf

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup unsalted butter, softened

Method
Combine the yeast, water, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar and let stand for 3 minutes. Whisk together the eggs, the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, and the salt. Add the yeast mixture and stir in the flour and cocoa. Add the butter and mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Form into a log and place in a buttered and floured 9- by 4-inch loaf pan. Cover and let rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until almost doubled in size. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the brioche from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Cut into small dice.

English Toffee

Yield: approximately 2 cups

3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Method
Place the sugar and cream in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and bring to a boil. Allow the mixture to cook and bubble, swirling
the pan as necessary, until it is a dark caramel color throughout (do not
stir). Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool and
thicken slightly. Pour the mixture onto the back of a nonstick sheet pan
or a light oiled cutting board and use a spatula to push it into a rectangular shape. When it is firm enough to cut, slice the toffee into 1/2-inch strips
using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife.
Melt 3 ounces of the chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering
water until almost melted. Remove from the heat, add the remaining 1
ounce chocolate, and stir continuously until the chocolate has cooled to
body temperature. Pour the chocolate over the toffee and separate the
strips slightly. Let cool at room temperature for 15 minutes, or until the chocolate hardens. Cut the toffee strips into 1/4-inch-wide pieces.

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