Many, many moons ago, long before ever-ubiquitous preservatives were employed as means to keep food fresher longer, and when humans typically smelled as though they messed themselves on the regular, food had a relatively short shelf life. Refrigeration wasn’t widely regarded as a useful tactic outside of the convenience of bitter cold winters, so dairy, meats and other treats went sour faster than you can convince a rational-minded person with a halfway decent comedic meter to watch an entire episode of NBC’s Whitney.
Given the state of those economically hard-hit and unhygienic times, food was not a commodity that was easily discarded. Given this, the people had to come up with ways of serving food long after its point of ripeness. Meat corrupted by time was covered in rich, heady sauces; softened, near-spoiled vegetables were thrown into soups and stocks; and breads…well, stale breads, it seems, were the belle of the tainted food ball. Their uses included stuffings, sops, and, easily the best use for this crusty comestible, bread mothereffin’ pudding (or puddin’ for my backwater and/or five-year-old readers).
If you’ve yet to have bread pudding, let me give you an idea of what your sadly deprived mouth is in for: it’s akin to eating tequila-soaked, opera-singing fairies while bathing in a thick sea of happiness. That is the perfect taste description. Bravo, me.
Just so we’re clear on the foundation of bread pudding, these unbathed dirties soak their stale bread in a large vat of cream, eggs and sugar and, after a short trip to the oven, it goes through a metamorphosis where the stale, old bread becomes one of the most delicious, comforting desserts known to human. That’s not just innovative, that’s magic.
Riding on the tail end of Doughvember, my sourdough starter, Herman (his given name), and I got to work on making a rich, fluffy chocolate sourdough bread to finish this month out right. I allowed the sourdough to rise twice, the first for 10 hours overnight and then again for an additional 3 hours which gave it a very distinct sour taste to offset the sweetness of the chocolate I chopped into it. Submerged in a rich tide of bittersweet Callebaut chocolate custard, baked until light, moist and springy and then topped with chopped hazelnuts, this 9 x 13 dish didn’t stand a chance in my presence. I ate the entire batch in 3 days flat, and Connor the Cat looked on in sheer jealousy while I ate each piece in slow motion. I may have heard him call me an asshole to the other cat, Riley, but I can’t be sure.
In any case, he’s totally right, but I couldn’t possible care less. When you’re eating chocolate hazelnut sourdough bread pudding, nothing else matters. Not even a jealous cat with a shitty disposition.
Chocolate Hazelnut Sourdough Bread
Summary: Rich, chocolately bread pudding with toasted hazelnuts to keep you and that half-eaten jar of Nutella at bay.
Preparation time: 1 hour active, 14-16 hours inactive
Cooking time: 2 hour(s) 10 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
- For the sourdough: 3 cups bread or all-purpose flour (plus extra, as needed)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup sourdough starter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1tsp salt
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
- 1 tbsp corn meal
- 1 tbsp milk or heavy cream
- For the chocolate custard: 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 whole eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
- Assembling/completing the bread pudding: Chocolate sourdough bread
- Chocolate custard
- 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (used to top the custard post-baking)
- For the sourdough: Place flour, cocoa powder, starter, sugar, salt and oil in a stand mixer with the hook attachment. Begin kneading and add water slowly until fully incorporated. Allow to knead about 5-7 minutes. (Note: If dough is too wet and doesn’t form properly, continue kneading adding additional flour 1 tbsp at a time until you can stretch out a small piece of the dough without it breaking or cracking.)
- Knead in the chopped chocolate, form into a ball and put in a lightly greased bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap.
- Set aside in a warm place for 8 to 10 hours, and dough should be twice its original size. Prepare a baking sheet or baking stone by sprinkling with corn meal and punch dough down. Form into a tight ball, place on prepared baking stone and cover with a tea towel until dough has risen double its original size, roughly 3 to 4 hours.
- Brush dough with milk or heavy cream and bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when you knock on it.
- Remove from oven and set on a cooling rack wrapped in a lightly dampened tea towel while you prepare the custard.
- For the chocolate custard: Heat heavy cream, milk and 1/2 cup of sugar in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until all the sugar dissolves, making sure to not let the milk boil. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate. Let milk cool slightly.
- Whisk together the egg yolks, eggs and remaining sugar. While continuously whisking, slowly mix in half the milk into the eggs and sugar and then transfer to remaining milk and whisk well.
- Assembling/completing the bread pudding: Preheat oven to 275 degrees
- Break up bread into 1/2″ to 1″ pieces and even distribute across a 9×13 baking dish.
- Pour warm custard through a sieve over the bread.
- Push bread down and hold into the custard for 1 to two minutes to ensure they soak up the liquid. Let stand for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Place into a roasting pan and add enough water until it comes halfway up the sides of the baking dish. (note: if you do not have a roasting pan large enough to fit your dish, I just make one out of two pieces of thick tinfoil — it’s cheap and easy and a little bit ghetto).
- Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes or until the pudding is firm.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle liberally with chopped hazelnuts. Serve warm.