Every year for Christmas, my mom and dad pulled out all the stops and took the family to Galatoire’s on Bourbon Street, one of the few places in New Orleans where a jacket is still required for the gentlemen. Galatoire’s for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day dinner is no joke — not even Tennessee Williams could reserve a table in advance. We’d bribe someone to save our spot in line, and he or she would wait there for sometimes up to eight hours to score us a table. The men and women who crowded the parlor-like dining room were decked out with so many bobbles and flashing lights attached to their sweaters, ears, and even on top of their heads that they looked like lit-up Christmas trees. At the end of the meal, after every drop of béarnaise sauce had been mopped off our plates, out would come Galatoire’s famous banana bread pudding, made with lots of cinnamon and nutmeg and served with a whiskey raisin sauce.
Bread pudding is one of my favorite holiday traditions, and I make it for my family every holiday season. It’s great for large gatherings and potlucks because it can be made up to three days ahead of time. This chocolate version is amazing when served with salted bourbon caramel.
In New Orleans you’d make bread pudding with airy Leidenheimer French bread, but I find that brioche, challah, or even day-old croissants or king cake make for an outrageously decadent pudding (just don’t tell your momma it ain’t Leidenheimer!).
Adapted from "DamGoodSweet" by David Guas and Rachel Pelzel
For the bread pudding:
For the caramel sauce:
For the bread pudding:
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with the softened butter and set aside.
Place the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden-brown, 12-15 minutes, rotating midway through. Set aside to cool.
Then place the bread in the prepared baking dish and set aside. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and set aside. Sift the cocoa into a medium bowl and set aside.
Place the chocolate in a large bowl. Bring the milk, cream, sugar, and salt to a boil in a large pot, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat, stir in the vanilla, and then pour the hot mixture over the chopped chocolate. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, set aside for 5 minutes, and then whisk until smooth.
Whisk ½ cup of the chocolate mixture into the cocoa, stirring until smooth. Whisk in another ½ cup of the chocolate mixture and then whisk in the eggs. Transfer to the large bowl of remaining chocolate mixture and whisk until they are completely incorporated.
Pour all but 1 cup of the chocolate mixture over the bread cubes in the baking dish and set aside so the bread can soak up the liquid. Press down on the bread with a wooden spoon every 15 minutes for 1 hour, adding the rest of the chocolate mixture after about 30 minutes, or when the bread has soaked up enough so the last cup of liquid will fit.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cover the bread pudding with aluminum foil and use a paring knife to make
4 small slits in the foil to allow steam to escape. Set the baking dish in a large roasting pan and place in the oven. Pour enough hot water in the roasting pan so the water reaches 1 inch up the side of the baking dish (if you don’t have a roasting pan large enough to fit the baking dish, set the dish onto a rimmed baking sheet and slide it in the oven, adding enough water to the baking sheet so it cushions the baking dish but doesn’t spill over). Bake for 45 minutes, and then remove the foil and bake until the pudding begins to puff slightly and the center bounces back to light pressure, about another 25-35 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.
For the caramel sauce:
While the bread pudding cools, make the caramel. Place the sugar in a 2-quart saucepan and add ¼ cup of water. Cover (or if you can’t find a lid, top the saucepan with a heatproof bowl, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the sugar) and cook over medium heat, swirling the mixture every 1-2 minutes, until the sugar is liquefied, about 6 minutes. Continue to cook until the sugar is a medium-amber color, another 4-6 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the cream (it will vigorously bubble up at first), whisking the mixture until smooth, then add the softened butter, bourbon, and salt. Set aside and serve with the still-warm bread pudding.
Make Ahead: Bread pudding is one of those desserts that is great for entertaining because it can be made and refrigerated a few days ahead of time. To warm, reheat the entire pan of bread pudding in a water bath in a 350 degrees oven until the center is warm. Or, for individual portions, slice and reheat in your microwave or toaster oven. The caramel can be covered and stored at room temperature for 2 days, or covered and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks ahead of time. Reheat the sauce in a saucepan or in your microwave.