Brioche Bread Pudding & French Toast

I first fell in love with Bread Pudding when my friend Megan who was cooking for Dave at Cafe Mirage was making it back in the late 90’s. I had never had bread pudding to my recollection, or at least not in this way- it was drier and more like french toast served in a cup that was crispy on the top. The bread puddings I think I had tried in the past were soppy gloppy structureless sludgy masses of dough and custard (sound appetizing? meh).

Then I discovered my Wife Rachel’s weakness for Bread Pudding- which was of a similar sort to the kind I wasn’t a big fan of, more bread texture and yet with a saucy kind of hard sauce that it was drenched in with maraschino cherries on top. As usual I set out to try to bridge the gap between what I was attracted to and what my love was attracted to. It’s still kind of a throw it together dish- that evolves each time I make it. I’ve made it with sourdough bread which was really yummy and less sweet and in this iteration- I’ve used the Brioche from Sweet Peas Bakery around the corner form us on Sound Beach Ave. in Old Greenwich. So without further adieu I bring you Brioche Bread Pudding/French Toast Hybrid.

Brioche French Toast Pudding

Brioche French Toast Pudding

Brioche French Toast Pudding

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 8

Where does the line between Breakfast and Dessert lie? Bill Cosby once said it was Chocolate Cake. With this recipe we may have a contender.
Ingredients
  • ¾ loaf of Brioche from your local bakery- fresh or stale is fine.
  • 3-1/2 to 4 cups of milk (2% or greater, your choice)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of natural sugar
  • ¼ freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp Indonesian Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Vanilla (I like the Penzeys double strength)
  • 2-3 tbsp of Salted butter
  • ⅛ cup of natural sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375º
  2. Combine the Milk, Eggs, Sugar, Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Vanilla and whisk to dissolve sugar and incorporate the eggs. Tear up the Brioche and add it to the liquid mixture. Your finished produce should be quite wet still, with the Brioche filling your bowl and liquid still quite visible.
  3. Coat the inside of a loaf pan with the butter as best you can and cut the remaining bits up and leave them in the pan, tossing them in the ⅛ cup of sugar and coating the bottom and sides of the pan with the sugar.
  4. Fill the pan with the mixture until you are 1 inch form the lip of the pan (you can fill it to ¼ inch but it will overflow when it starts to bake)
  5. Bake for approximately 1 hour in the loaf pan placed on a jelly roll or baking sheet with an edge to catch any overflow.
  6. The bread pudding is cooked when the internal temp reaches 160º

Liliko’i Cake Redux

This cake is my absolute favorite in the world. There simply is no better summertime cake than the Dee Lite Bakery Passion Fruit Cake. Unfortunately, you have to be in Hawaii to get one- and the only other option is to have one fedexed to you (half sheetpan size only from what i remember). So after years of wanting to make one of these so I could enjoy it away from home, I finally dove in and began seeking out my key ingredient. Passion Fruit juice. Not that sickly sweet stuff you see from Goya, or the stuff welches would have you believe is passion fruit, no, real passion fruit should almost turn your mouth inside out from tartness. Hawaiian passion fruits are bright yellow on the outside, not purple like you see in the US grocery stores. I know of at least three varieties of passion fruit, only by their outer color. Orange, yellow and purple all three varying somewhat in sweetness and tartness. It is a flavor that is often represented but rarely done well. There is too often a heavy handed apple juice, or peach juice sort of sweetness added to passion fruit to tame it for western audiences. If you want to experience the true glory of passion fruit in a dessert- read on.

At Shop Rite in Stamford, CT. I came across Dafruta Passion Fruit liquid concentrate- This is a brazilian product imported by liberty imports in Allentown, PA. Wegmans markets carries this as well as Hannafords in NY, MA and ME. I’m sure there are other passion fruit concentrates, but you must be sure that it contains NO sugar. You wouldn’t buy lemon juice that was presweetened, right? I mean, that’s Lemonade. OK, OK- on with it, right.

First things first- We need a fruit glaze for this cake, some to add to the frosting that will be used between the cake layers and some to top the cake with after frosting. A basic fruit glaze will call for too much of a sugar to fruit juice ratio so be sure to follow it the way I’ve outlined below.

1/2 C Sugar
2 TB Corn Starch
1 C Passion Fruit concentrate + 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water
2 Heaping TB of Strawberry Jelly (jam- no chunks) (we’re looking for a little glucose/corn syrup to disrupt the sugar recrystallization)

Begin with a 1/2 cup of the juice concentrate + 1/4 cup of water and add the sugar to it. Heat over medium heat stirring occasionally until it boils. While you’re heating the sugar and juice, add the corn starch to the remaining 1/2c of juice and 1/4c water and mix. Once the sugar syrup is boiling, add the corn starch mixture to the syrup and heat again until thickened and just before boiling. Finally, add the 2 Tablespoons of strawberry jelly and blend until smooth over medium to medium low heat and then remove from heat. it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and should taste sweet, but tart.

Now for the frosting- I used a traditional buttercream frosting-
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 (1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Blend the butter and Cream Cheese, then slowly add the confectioners sugar (slowly or you’ll discover why I suggest “slowly”) I usually stop the mixer, add a cup or so, then mix again until it’s combined, repeat until you’re done with the sugar. Finally- slowly add 1/2 pint of heavy cream to lighten up the density of the frosting.

Chill all of this.

On to the cakes- I used Arrowhead Mills Organic Vanilla cake mix, because it’s what I had available though I would have been fine with a plain yellow or white as well. I adjusted the recipe in a few ways- first, I added an extra egg, but combined the eggs in a different way too. take the whites of 2 eggs and add the remaining 3 yolks and 1 white to the oil and milk for the cake mixture and combine them. Meanwhile, take the 2 whites that you reserved and whip them to medium stiff peaks. once the batter has been mixed fold half of the batter into the egg whites, then fold in the rest, take care not to combine so much that you take the air out. Continue with the recipe the way the box suggests. I put a round cut piece of parchment in the bottom of both pans- it’s easier to remove the cakes later.

Let your cakes cool-

Now when you’re ready to frost- Begin by putting a coating of the glaze on your bottom layer and delicately brush it in- alternately you could also just brush a bit of the concentrate onto the cake top and it will soak right in. Then mix a little glaze into a small amount of frosting for your first layer top coating so you have a nice fruity middle frosting. Do a crumb layer followed by finishing up the rest of the cake. I made a top trim edge to keep the glaze from running down the sides of the cake (also so I could add a bit more glaze). Let your cake chill for at least an hour, uncovered. If you want to chill it overnight I would cover it.

Enjoy!

Mascarpone Chocolate Mousse

I have searched around for a good chocolate mousse recipe for a while now- Not much that I like, mostly because what I find omits one or another key ingredient that I think is required for a mousse. The ingredients you must have in a mousse, unless you’re trying to achieve dietary acrobatics are the following:

Chocolate (I like as high cocoa content as possible- go for 72-85%- if you want your chocolate a bit sweeter, add a little sugar- just a little.
Eggs (Local fresh eggs are key here- go to a farmers market or buy the “local” ones in your grocery store)
Heavy Whipping Cream.

That’s it! That’s all that is required! Now, on to my own recipe- it’s so basic, it’s probably what most chef’s would do because it just makes sense- less ingredients allow each other to shine. One thing I want to stress from the beginning is that I believe a good chocolate mousse should not be sweet, and it’s very easy for that to happen, after all cream has a sweetness all on its own. You may look at this recipe and think, it should have sugar in it- but don’t cave- leave it out. If you must, either choose a lower cocoa content chocolate or sweeten some whipped cream as a topper.  I think you’ll be amazed how the natural sweetness of cream comes through in this dessert.

This recipe will serve 10-15 people, depending on how addicted they are to Chocolate- I think I was able to serve about 15+ with this.

Alright. Here we go.
Tools: You’ll want a nice balloon whip (whisk) for the egg whites and a hand mixer for the cream. 2 large mixing bowls and a large pyrex bowl and a 3-4 quart saucepan (unless you have a double boiler) and an instant read thermometer- though it’s not essential, it’s nice to have- you should have one anyway.

Mascarpone Chocolate Mousse

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 10

I have searched around for a good chocolate mousse recipe for a while now- Not much that I like, mostly because what I find omits one or another key ingredient that I think is required for a mousse. I had a mousse made with Mascarpone up in Lakeville, CT years ago and decided to try my hand at making a recipe for it. It's a wonderful dense mousse, airy but firm.
Ingredients
  • 6 oz. plus 2 oz. (that's a half lb. total) of chocolate-I take a bread knife and break it up- if you get a thicker block of bulk chocolate it's easier to cut, like it was a hard cheese. just slowly push your way through and it will crumble.
  • 8 oz. Mascarpone cheese
  • ½ pint of heavy whipping cream
  • 6 large or jumbo local eggs-whites and yolks, separated. (if all you can find are medium local eggs- just add 1-2 more than what I call for.
Instructions
  1. Combine your Egg Yolks with a whisk and set aside.
  2. Now put about 1-2 inches of water in the bottom of the saucepan and heat it over a medium low temp- you want it to simmer- place the pyrex bowl on top and put 6 oz. of the chocolate in the bowl and stir it with a silicone scraper until it is melted and set it aside, off the saucepan. it will need about 10 minutes to cool, so get whipping.
  3. Whip the creams together until they form stiff peaks and whip your egg whites until they also form fairly stiff peaks. —this is a good two person job- share the effort, (and share the reward).
  4. At this point- your chocolate should be cool enough to work with, about 110º-120º, give it a quick mixing before the next step, tempering your eggs. Have someone mixing the egg yolks with a small whisk while you pour a small amount of chocolate into the eggs, until the eggs resemble brownie batter at which point you can add the egg mixture into the chocolate bowl and combine well with the silicone scraper (spatula). Add half your whipped cream mixture and stir until combined (You can add an ounce or two of sherry or port, or brandy or other flavored liquor if you like, before moving on) and then add half the egg whites and mix just until combined- Now add the extra 2 oz. of well chopped chocolate which will provide you with a bit of texture to the final product. Finish up by folding in the remaining cream and then the remaining egg whites, being careful to not mix too much- it's ok if it doesn't look perfectly combined- you want to keep as much air in this as possible. Refrigerate, covered for a few hours or overnight.

Serve with whipped cream and or fresh berries.