Pumpkin chocolate bread pudding

It’s one of those blustery, snowy February afternoons. Little Five is in the living room, being put through his paces by the piano teacher. I’m in the kitchen, sniffling over a fresh mug of tea and the last slice of gingerbread (it does keep remarkably well). But since I’m just reheating dinner tonight in between the Tuesday marathon of piano/karate/extra chorus rehearsal, I thought it might be nice to make dessert. It’s one of those extra things you do for the people you love, like picking up your socks and clearing off the kitchen counter, even if these are not your own priorities.

Even though I’m spent from fighting (and losing to) a cold–not to mention the emotional effort of filling out kindergarten registration forms–this is a homey dessert that takes all of 10 minutes of lackluster effort. Five minutes to dice up all your leftover bits of bread, five minutes to whisk together the custard. If you put the pudding in the oven right after school, people are in a much more cooperative frame of mind concerning homework. Call it aromatherapy.

Pumpkin Chocolate Bread Pudding

1 cup half and half or light cream

1 cup milk

1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree

1 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

10 cups (about 10 oz.) stale bread (not too soft and not too crusty–I used a combination of challah and an Italian loaf), in 1/2-inch cubes

3/4 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Butter (or use cooking spray) a medium baking dish (8″ x 8″ or a deep dish pie plate). Put the bread cubes and chocolate chips into the dish. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour over the bread and chocolate and mix gently so that all the cubes soak up some custard. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees and let the pudding soak until the oven is ready. Bake for about 40 minutes, until a thin knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Serve warm, with a little vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if you like.

Advertisements

Multigrain pumpkin banana bread (or muffins)

Fall is creeping in, and I’m thrilled. I found one stray can of pumpkin puree in the pantry, and decided it was finally close enough to fall to use it. My family doesn’t seem to tire of muffins or quick breads, even when I stuff them full of whole grains and fiber. I’ve been meaning to mix up a container of multigrain flour, ever since I stocked the freezer with a beautiful variety of flours some months ago. And since I’m trying to cook in greater quantity, but less often, I baked enough for a loaf to eat right away, and some muffins to freeze for lunchboxes and quick breakfasts. This bread is incredibly moist, with a complex, fruity flavor and something reminiscent of gingerbread. I am tempted to retest the recipe with less butter, since there is so much fruit to maintain the moisture. If you try, let me know how it goes!

This recipe looked so easy (mix the wet ingredients, mix the dry, mix them together–done!), but it needed some tweaking. If your ingredients are not all at room temperature, the butter will not mix smoothly into the wet mixture. I had cold eggs and overripe bananas straight from the fridge, and they didn’t play well with the softened butter. But if you cream the butter and the sugar together first, and then add the rest of the wet stuff, you’ll be fine. No extra bowls, either.

By the way, I finally acquired a kitchen scale, and I already love not having to use a slew of measuring cups. You can get along just fine without one, but I’m finding it more and more useful.

Multigrain pumpkin banana bread and muffins

adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 cup (8 ounces) softened butter

1 1/3 cups (10 ounces) brown sugar (I used dark brown)

6 Tbsp. (4 1/2 ounces) honey

4 large eggs

2 cups (15-ounce can) pumpkin puree

2 cups (16 ounces) mashed banana

2 Tbsp. (2 ounces) apple juice

3 cups (12 ounces) Multigrain Flour Mix (see below)

1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

coarse sparkling sugar to sprinkle on top

Multigrain Flour Mix

from Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 cup oat flour (you can grind 1 cup rolled oats in the food processor)

1 cup barley flour

1/2 cup millet flour

1/2 cup rye flour

Whisk all the flours together in a bowl, then store in an airtight container.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of two 8 1/2″ by 4 1/2″ loaf pans (or one loaf pan and a dozen muffin cups).

Beat butter and brown sugar together. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and beat well.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the multigrain flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to the wet mixture and stir until just combined.

Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full of batter; then fill the loaf pan (it should also be about 2/3 full). Sprinkle the coarse sparkling sugar on top of both.

Put both pans on the middle rack of the oven. Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the edges look browned. Remove and cool completely in the pan on rack. Move the loaf pan to the center of the oven and bake for another 35-55 minutes. Cool completely in the pan.