Bread pudding comes in all different forms, from recipes that can be individually sliced and served very neatly to recipes so pudding-like that the must be scooped and served in a bowl. Recently, Anna from Cookie Madness came across one that is a little more unusual and talked me into trying it out. White Chocolate Challah Bread Pudding she made comes from a cookbook called The Fig’s Table and is unusual because it has an egg rich base that makes the finished bread pudding turn out to be more like a custard than anything else.
In fact, the method of making this bread pudding is a lot like the method of making a custard, since the pudding is baked in a water bath! The water bath keeps the custard that fills the pan cooking at a slow, even pace, so you end up with a dessert that is very rich and very smooth. This method is a great fit for this recipe because there is a lot of custard to cook. The custard is the egg and milk mixture that the bread soaks in, and this one almost has more bread than custard. As it bakes, the bread soaks up a lot of the custard and helps to give the dessert structure, but doesn’t distract you from the soft, richness of the pudding. The white chocolate flavor really came through in the end, so it is well worth using a good quality white chocolate. I used Guittard. Like Anna, I would not recommend using white chocolate chips.
As with other bread puddings, you can really use any kind of bread in this recipe. I would strongly recommend going with challah or another soft, rich bread like brioche because both will blend in very well with the richness of the custard. Plain white bread would be a good fallback, but I wouldn’t use anything with a strong flavor that might detract from the vanilla notes in the white chocolate.
I started with the same recipe Anna posted and cut it down to make about half as many servings, as Anna said that it was very rich and I didn’t really have the need to serve 12 (or more) people with the recipe. I baked it in a loaf pan and the procedure was just the same. If you want to serve more, use the original recipe.
White Chocolate Bread Pudding
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups half and half
1/4 cup sugar
5 ounces white chocolate (not white chocolate chips), chopped
3 cups challah/brioche bread cubes, crusts removed (approx 1/2 loaf)
Preheat the oven to 350F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks and vanilla extract. Set aside.
In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the half and half and sugar. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, until the cream almost comes to a boil (it will steam and small bubbles will form around the edge of the pot). Turn the heat down to low and add in the chopped white chocolate. Stir until all chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth.
Whisking constantly, very slowly stream the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture until everything is incorporated.
Take a 9×5-inch loaf pan and place the bread cubes in it in a roughly even layer. Pour the warm white chocolate mixture over the bread crumbs. Press down gently to ensure all the cubes are well-saturated.
Place the loaf pan in a large casserole dish, then fill the larger dish with water so that the water level comes approximately halfway up the side of the loaf pan. Place the dish in the oven and loosely tent a piece of aluminum foil over the loaf pan (to prevent browning and keep the dish nice and white).
Bake for 55-60 minutes, until the custard is set. If you insert a sharp knife in the center of the pudding, it should come out clean or almost clean.
Serve warm. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and reheat to serve.
Tangy berries cut the sweetness of this bread pudding well. I served it with some Easy Microwave Mixed Berry Syrup.