A Christmas Story: Chocolate Bread Pudding

26 Dec

These socks are exciting!

I love Christmas. Every year, I look forward to wearing my acid green cardigan twinset and settling down to watch “A Christmas Story” and the Food Network on continuous loop, while eating chocolate confections, cracking whole nuts in my parent’s ancient nutcracker and popping plump triangles of stinky cheese into my mouth until I have to unbutton the top button of my stretch jeans.

Stephen and I invariably settle in to my parents’ house for two days and focus on helping them set their New Year’s Day goal of losing 10 pounds into motion early, by eating all of their food. The liquor cabinet, natch, also takes a beating. When we’re not eating and drinking, we’re playing Rummikub and prepping our next meal.

Our annual Christmas Eve / Christmas Day Bacchanalia is the Superbowl of our holiday season; an intense event requiring athletic, intellectual and psychological dexterity for which several months of competitive board-gaming and cheese-hoarding is required to ace.

Between the end of the year madness at work, weird and extraneous social commitments, the singular joys of last-minute shopping and the iron-clad, empirically gathered evidence that absolutely everything you buy your loved ones will be 30-60% cheaper at 12:01 am on Dec. 26th, it’s a wonder that the Air Jordan incidents were the only examples of widespread antisocial holiday activity.

This year, I didn’t have a buffer day between work and hardcore play to gently jingle me into the holiday mindset, so I decided to springboard myself into the holiday hustle via some aggressive commercial activity the morning of Christmas Eve. I’ve been trolling the Hudson Valley Craigslist since moving to the country, peering anxiously at antiques, oddball throw-offs and family heirlooms, wondering how that butter-churner would look next to our fireplace, or if Stephen would throw that fuschia Victorian fainting couch out the window if I tried to put it by the front door. Trained by watching countless hours of “Law & Order” and “Dateline” that commerce conducted over the Internet is often spearheaded by fraudulent psychopaths hell-bent on tormenting innocent members of the bargain-hunting populace, I have always been hesitant to partake in the Craigslist marketplace.

Road trip!

But I just couldn’t resist a trio of Kittinger Buffalo marble tables for (practically!) less than I’d spend on a particle board knockoff from IKEA.  So on my way to the family fun, I took a three-hour detour over rivers and streams, up hills and through hollers, all the way to Kerhonksen, New York, to buy the tables from an adorable couple of retired hippies who are moving to Santa Cruz. (They even gave me the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” and a sheet to wrap the table tops in, and then loaded them into the back of my truck).

De-Scrooging

With a bulging truck full of goodies for my family, Stephen and, now, me, I weaved my way to my parent’s house, listening to  “A Christmas Carol” on NPR and successfully wiped off all traces of Scrooge in preparation for two solid days of unrelenting ho-ho-hoing.

"What Cats Teach Us," just what my Dad wanted for Christmas this year!

We had one of our best Christmases yet – hopefully it bodes well for 2012!

Recipes for the treats we ate are far too numerous to list, but my personal favorite was the Chocolate Bread Pudding we made, courtesy of Alton Brown.

Click on for the recipe!

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Alton Brown’s recipe, teeny tweaks

Ingredients:

  • 2 large whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup hot chocolate mix
  • 3 cups half and half
  • 2 oz strong coffee
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 2 TBSP butter, melted and divided
  • 12-14 oz challah bread, cubed into bite-size pieces
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into bite-size pieces

Method:

  • Melt 1 TBSP butter and spread in 8” x 12” ceramic pan, add bread, add bittersweet chocolate chunks and set aside.
  • Place eggs, yolks in blender and mix for about 10 seconds on low; add sugar and blend until incorporated, about 30 seconds; add chocolate mixture and blend until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add half-and-half, coffee, vanilla and blend until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
  • Pour custard over bread mix, cover and set aside at room temp for 2-3 hours, or up to 8 in the fridge (if you plan to hold it for longer than 2-3 hours, it should go in the fridge).
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cook for about 45 minutes. Set on high broil, open oven door, remove pudding. Pour the remaining 1 TBSP butter onto the pudding and stick it under the broiler for 5 minutes. Cool on rack for about 15 minutes before serving.
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