For dinner tonight I'm slathering a leg of lamb with a garlic and rosemary paste then tossing it in the oven. I'll serve it with creamed spinach and mashed sweet potatoes with shallots and jalapeno. Round Two, later in the week, will be shepherd's pie. Not bad for the Costco Queen!
I had bread that was in danger of going stale. There was also a bag of dried cherries in the pantry, along with some bitter sweet chocolate chips, and I always have some pecan streusel stashed in the freezer. The rest is history, or bread pudding. Feel free to use any sort of chocolate chips if you don't care for the bitter sweet kind--white chocolate chips would be good. I don't bother to take the crusts off the bread but if you're the persnickety sort, trim them away. I use 1% milk but you can live on the edge and use whole milk or even half and half.
Chocolate-Cherry Bread Pudding
2 teaspoons butter, for coating baking dish
5 slices day-old country-style white bread, cut into 1” cubes (about 5 cups)
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
½ cup dried cherries, cut in half if large
3 whole eggs
1 ¾ cups milk
pinch of salt
¼ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ to ¾ cup pecan streusel topping—recipe follows
Prepare streusel topping.
Butter a 1½ quart baking dish. Layer 1/3 of bread cubes in the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle with half the chocolate chips and half the dried cherries. Layer with another 1/3 of bread cubes and sprinkle with remainder of chocolate chips and dried cherries. Top with remaining bread cubes.
In a separate bowl beat together eggs with the milk, salt, sugar, and vanilla, until well combined. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread cubes. With a spatula or your hands, press bread to submerge it into the egg mixture. Sprinkle evenly with the streusel topping.
Let mixture sit for 15 minutes, then turn on oven to 375 degrees (350 convection.) Preheat oven heat for 15 minutes.
Place pan in the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until bread pudding is very puffy and the center springs back when pushed.
Let rest for 20 minutes. Bread pudding with settle somewhat. Serve plain, with powdered sugar, maple syrup, or whipped cream.
Pecan Streusel Topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, chilled and cut into ½ inch cubes
Stir together flour, pecans, brown sugar, and salt until well combined. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour, or mash the butter into the flour with your finger tips, until the mixture is crumbly and no large pieces of butter remain. I like to squeeze the mixture into pieces about the size of small marbles or large peas, so that when they're baked they have a little crunch to them. Chill for 30 minutes before using, or freeze for future use. To use, sprinkle onto bread pudding, pies, muffins, etc., then bake as per your recipe. If using frozen streusel topping, there is no need to thaw it beforehand.