It has been quite a while since I’ve had a Christmas away from work. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but from what I’m told it was much like the previous years: open presents early, then try to find ways to entertain ourselves for the rest of the day. I fiddled with my new iPhone for a while, then decided to give my thumbs a rest. I wondered what other families did on Christmas. Cooking, of course! Having been so busy for the past few weeks I haven’t really cooked anything nice for the family in a while (note my lack of blog posts during that time period), and I actually felt like spending some time in the kitchen. After some discussion we decided I should make a bread pudding. We bundled up the kids, drove to the supermarket and…it was closed, just like everything else on Christmas. We turned around and drove back empty handed. The bread pudding would have to wait. I made it two days later and it didn’t disappoint. It could be one of the most satisfying holiday desserts there is. If you are not planning to serve this to children you could try soaking the dried cherries in brandy for an hour before you bake it for a little extra something to warm you up on a cold winter evening.
Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding (Serves 8-10)
Bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see below)
2 cups light cream
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried cherries
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
For the bread, I strongly suggest using either challah or brioche, but almost any neutral flavored bread will do – the moister, the better. Some people also swear by croissants, so try that as well. Cut just as much as you need to almost fill your baking dish. This time I used a deep 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. I cut up six challah rolls (each about the size of a hamburger bun) and it filled it up perfectly.
After preparing the bread, preheat the oven to 350. Mix the eggs, cream, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the bread and let it soak while the oven preheats. If the bread is fairly dry it would benefit from some extra soaking time. Mix in the dried cherries and chopped chocolate. When the oven is hot, spray your baking dish with a non-stick spray, pour in the soaked bread, and bake for about 30 minutes until fully cooked. If your pan is not so deep it will require less cooking time. It should rise in the center and feel firm to the touch, not unlike a loaf of banana bread. Remove from the oven and let rest for a few minutes before serving. This is best served warm, with or without ice cream (we had it without and there were no complaints).