Since it is my birthday, I decided to treat myself. One of the first things that came to mind was my new version of bread pudding, which I had first concocted around Christmas time for a family gathering. A Topeka restaurant, which sadly no longer exists, used to serve croissant bread pudding with a vanilla sauce. I had always been tempted to try and replicate it. The one thing I didn’t care for in the restaurant’s version was the golden raisins. Croissants alone sounded a little boring, so I wanted to add something. What could be a better substitute for raisins? The answer hit me. It’s not only the answer to this recipe, but probably an answer for a lot of life’s questions. I’m talking, of course, about CHOCOLATE. (Maybe I should restate my bacon theory from a couple days ago. My new theory is that if there is anything that bacon wouldn’t improve, you could probably use chocolate instead.)
I began looking for recipes. I was finding lots for chocolate bread pudding, but I wasn’t sure I wanted complete chocolate. Imagine my excitement when I finally landed on this recipe. I followed the recipe, but added just a bit of cinnamon. For the chocolate, I just used Nestle’s chocolate chunks. The first time I made this recipe, I was having trouble getting it to seem fully cooked all the way through. This time, I tried the custard method of filling a larger pan with a little water and placing this pan inside the larger pan while it baked. This seemed to work a little better, but I still cooked mine longer than the recipe called for.
Now that I had my bread pudding recipe, I needed to deal with the issue of finding a delicious vanilla sauce. I automatically excluded any recipes dealing with vanilla extract. I like any excuse to cook with vanilla beans. You absolutely cannot beat the smell and flavor when using the actual vanilla beans. I used to avoid some recipes with vanilla bean just because I wasn’t sure exactly how to use it. I was happy to find out that it’s really not that hard. Here’s a good example I’ve found that includes photos.
Vanilla beans can add some cost to a recipe. Depending on how small your grocery store is, they also may not always be available. Even though I prefer the rich flavor I get with vanilla beans, I’m sure vanilla extract can be substituted.
For the sauce, I couldn’t find one recipe that I felt like using, so I came up with my own by combining some of the ones I’d found. This is what I ended up with:
Combine 1 cup milk, 1 cup heavy cream, and half a vanilla bean split lengthwise. I scrape the seeds into the liquid, but also add the entire pod to catch as much flavor as possible. Heat until it begins to boil. In a separate bowl, combine 3 egg yolks and ½ cup of sugar. Strain the vanilla bean mixture into another bowl. Slowly pour it into the egg mixture, while stirring the whole time. (I do this to avoid scrambling the eggs with the hot mixture. I found an electric stand mixer is great help.) Return that to the stove and heat at a lower temperature until the sauce thickens.
This recipe is still a work in progress because it doesn’t get quite as thick as I’d like. I have tried placing the pan into an ice water bath after removing it from the stove. This time I also stuck it in the fridge for a bit first.