This is a fantastic weekend brunch item and a genius way to use stale, day old croissants (or in my case, pain au chocolat). We are in peak cherry season here in California so I added fresh cherries on top for a sort of play on Black Forest Cake but they would also be delicious baked into the pudding as well. I finished each serving of bread pudding with warm vanilla bean creme anglaise which is pretty much melted ice cream - the process is just like making homemade ice cream base except you are not freezing it, so it is considered a pourable custard. You could also use warm maple syrup if you prefer it over the creme anglaise. Once you have the general process down you can use any bread you want; cinnamon bread, brioche, and challah all work great for breakfast puddings.
Pain Au Chocolat Bread Breading with Fresh Cherries
4 day old, pain au chocolate (chocolate croissants)
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cup whole milk
4 Tbsp sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 whole grade A vanilla bean, scraped
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Zest of one lemon or meyer lemon
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter an oven-proof baking dish
2. Cut the pain au chocolate into rustic pieces and add to baking dish. Set Aside.
3. Put the milk and cream into a pan with vanilla, salt, and cinnamon and scald - stop just before boiling point.
4. Whisk the egg, the yolks, and the sugar in a bowl.
5. When the milk and cream are almost boiling, pour 1/3 of it slowly over the eggs and sugar, whisking continuously to temper the mixture. Add the rest. Stir together.
6. Pour the mixture over the pain au chocolat and leave to soak for 8-10 minutes.
7. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the bread pudding is set and firm.
8. Make the creme anglaise while the pudding is baking. (recipe below)
2 cups half and half
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1. Set a fine strainer over a medium bowl and set the bowl in another bowl filled halfway with ice water.
2. In a large saucepan, combine the half and half and vanilla bean and cook over moderately low heat just until small bubbles appear around the rim, about 5 minutes.
3. In another bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolks just until combined. Whisk in half of the half and half and then add the rest slowly.
4. Pour the mixture into the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sauce has thickened which will take approximately 5 minutes.
5. Immediately strain the sauce into the bowl that is sitting over an ice bath. Scrape the vanilla beans into the sauce. Stir. Hold until ready to serve.