This absolutely delicious adaptation of a classic French pain perdu by Chef Rachel Howard features chocolate and a rich toffee bourbon sauce. It’s utterly, utterly scrumptious!
¼ teaspoon salt (less if Kosher)
4 medium eggs
1 litre (4 cups) milk (demi or whole)
200g (cup) white granulated (caster) sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
900g (4 ½ cups) day-old bread, cubed (see note below)
300g (1 ½ cups) milk or dark chocolate chips or chocolate disks, chopped medium
Optional: 3 ripe to over-ripe bananas, halved and sliced
Optional: Cinnamon-sugar mixture for sprinkling
Toffee Bourbon (or rum) Sauce:
113 g (½ cup) white granulated (caster) sugar
113 g (½ cup) butter
60ml (¼ cup) rum (light or dark)
113 (½ cup) double cream (heavy cream/crème entière), room temperature
Makes approximately 10 ramekins or small forms, depending on the size
Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
Whisk the salt, eggs, vanilla, milk and sugar until well combined and sugar is dissolved.
Add the bread, cut into cubes to the egg mixture and let them soak for about 10 minutes but no more than 20 minutes. If left too long in the mixture, the bread will begin to dissolve and there will more of a pudding texture to the final product. You may find that you have leftover egg mixture after filling the ramekins; if so, add some more bread cubes and fill one or two more ramekins.
If you decide to use one large form rather than individual ramekins, then prepare the form by buttering well.
Pour the mix into each ramekin until about half full. Then sprinkle over the chocolate (and bananas if using) and fill each ramekin with remaining mix to the rim of just over. Ensure that each ramekin is about half full of liquid mix.
Pop some more chocolate drops over the top. You can also sprinkle the top of each ramekin with a small amount of cinnamon-sugar – just check more often while baking to ensure that the top does not burn and cover lightly with a sheet of foil if the cinnamon-sugar is browning too quickly.
Place the ramekins in large high sided pan and place on the middle oven rack. Fill the pan with hot water until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins (a ‘bain marie’).
Bake for approximately 30 minutes, depending on your oven. Be careful not to overbake or they will lose the pudding texture. They should be softer than a quiche coming out of the oven. While baking, begin preparing the rum sauce (see below).
Remove the puddings from the oven and allow to set for at least ten minutes. Serve at room temperature (Chantilly cream goes well) or warm with toffee sauce (a sprinkling of powdered sugar is attractive, with the sauce served in a shot glass on the side).
You can keep the puddings in the fridge for up to two days; reheat in a microwave for 60 seconds and crisp the tops for about a minute under a grill/pre-heated broiler.
Toffee bourbon Sauce:
Place the butter in a small saucepan and melt on medium heat. After the foam has subsided, watch the fat solids carefully for their color, until they have turned a medium-dark brown and the butter begins to smell nutty. The color of the butter will determine the color of the sauce, as well as the depth of the nutty flavor, so don’t lose your nerve and pull the butter off too soon. While still on the heat, add the sugar and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Add the heavy cream (be careful; it will boil up quickly and then subside). Whisk to ensure that the sauce is a smooth consistency, since adding the cream may re-crystallize the sugar, especially if the cream was cool. If the sauce has a grainy texture, then continue whisking on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, and the sauce has come together again. Add the bourbon (or rum) and continue heating for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol (this will ensure that the sauce retains the flavor without the harsh notes of raw alcohol). You can also substitute rum for bourbon.
The sauce is best served immediately with the warm pudding, either on the side or drizzled over the top. However, it can be saved in a plastic container in the refrigerator, and either reheated as a whole or in individual shot glasses in the microwave. If reheated, stir or whisk after reheating to ensure that the sauce has a smooth consistency.
You can use any kind of day-old bread that is on hand; for example, baguette will have more texture and yield more crunchy bits at the top (a more dramatic presentation), while brioche will dissolve into more of a cohesive pudding texture. Also, if more texture is desired, then cut larger cubes, or cut smaller cubes for a more pudding-like texture.