Dark Chocolate-Pumpkin Bread Pudding

As the leaves start to fall and the air becomes a bit chilly, my craving for pumpkin-flavored food starts to appear.  My belly craves warmth, comforting food–dessert.  And, to me, nothing screams comfort like bread pudding.

I’ve found that bread pudding either evokes intense excitement or scrunched-up noses when mentioned.  Sometimes described as “soggy bread,” I wouldn’t find the dessert that enticing either.  But, after having worked in an Irish Pub for over three years, I’ve discovered the truth.  Soggy bread, as some call it, is delicious. Just look at that picture and tell me you wouldn’t want a sample.

I came across this recipe in Gourmet years back and it has stuck in my mind ever since.  Naturally, though, I found an excuse to add chocolate (like this pumpkin bread).  The result was extremely decadent, especially served warm with ice cream.  It makes a great breakfast as well!

Dark Chocolate-Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Adapted from Gourmet & Martha Stewart
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
5 cups cubed day-old bread (I used challah)
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small chunks
1/4 cup pumpkin butter (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin, sugars, eggs, egg yolks, salt, and spices.
Toss bread cubes in melted butter in another bowl. Sprinkle in chocolate and mix again.  Transfer to a 8×8-inch square baking pan.  Pour the milk mixture over the bread and chocolate.  Dot with pumpkin butter.  Bake until the custard is set, 25-30 minutes.

Brownies with a Kick

For some reason, I always associate brownies with Valentine’s day. I usually opt for Alice Medrich’s ethereal New Bittersweet Brownies from her most recent masterpiece, Pure Dessert.  However, seeing as the world has gone absolutely gaga over the Baked brownie, I figured I’d give that recipe a shot.  Given the nature of Valentine’s day, I also wanted to spice it up a bit with some cayenne pepper and cinnamon–just enough spice to make the back of your throat sing.

From the start, I could tell the Baked brownie recipe would be a cinch to put together.  Unlike Medrich’s recipe, the batter can be whipped up without a mixer.  Also, because the eggs aren’t beaten as much, the top crust of the Baked brownies is a lot thinner (the one downfall of Medrich’s brownies, in my opinion).

The result?  Well, these brownies sure are delicious–perfectly fudge-like, without a hint of gumminess.  The heat from the cayenne and the cinnamon is a wonderful addition, especially with a scoop of coffee ice cream right on top.  Although I’m still not convinced that the recipe tops Medrich’s brownie heaven, it places a close second, and earns a spot in my brownie recipe rotation.

Spicy Hot Brownies:
(adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)
These brownies are exceptionally tasty when topped with coffee ice cream.  I’m particularly fond of Haagen Dazs.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon high-quality cocoa powder (I use Callebaut)
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground espresso powder
5.5 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 8 x 8 inch pan. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and espresso.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the chocolate and butter.  Set over a pot of simmering water and stir until the chocolate and butter are completely melted.  Turn off the heat.  Add the sugars, and whisk to combine.  Remove the bowl from the pot.
Add the eggs to the mixture, one at a time.  Do not overmix the batter, beat only until the eggs are combined.  Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture and fold until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few crumbs.  Try not to overbake, or the brownies will lose their fudge-like consistency.
Let cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes.  Cut into 9 squares for large servings, or 12 for smaller servings.
If you would like to try Alice Medrich’s New Bittersweet Brownie recipe, click on over to Slow Like Honey.