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Trial & Error | Dessert | Chocolate Covered Strawberry Bread Pudding

I had a really special motivation for giving a sweet, bread pudding a shot. I’ve made savory ones. I was actually supposed to make a savory one to accompany this. But instead, I screwed up the recipe by going a little too rogue and a little too Colin Mochrie, and improvising my way from a bread pudding to a mini casserole. Tasty. But not a savory tomato, basil bread pudding.

Thankfully, this recipe isn’t about that recipe. It’s about my own take on a bringing a chocolate covered strawberry to life in the form of a bread pudding. I think with an iteration or too, this can improve. But from concept to dish, I’m pretty happy with it. I hope the beneficiary finds some comfort in the ultimate of comfort desserts, as well.

The key thing for me was making this taste like a chocolate covered strawberry–which means for all the decadent chocolate, there had to be an underlying fruitiness and tartness in contrast. How’d I achieve it? By making the custard, and then stirring in a blended, half-a-basket of fresh strawberries (with a touch of sugar and milk to keep the blades whirring.

Here’s the full recipe with some photos.

Ingredients

  • Bread. I can’t tell you how important the bread is. I had a whole wheat that I was going to work with but then I saw a chocolate cranberry at Whole Foods and went for it. Game. Changer. Get creative with your bread since it dominates the dish. (12 cups)
  • Eggs (6)
  • Milk (3 cups)
  • Chocolate Chips (1 Bag)
  • Strawberries (16 Large)
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Casserole Dishes (2, one that can fit inside of the other)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Cut the bread. Most folks I’ve spoken to about bread pudding go with 1″ cubes. For dessert? I say go with 1/4″ to 1/2″ because you have more flexibility on the presentation (muffin tins, casserole dishes, etc.) Lay them flat on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 200 degrees. The goal is to dry out the bread, not necessarily cook it.
  3. Prep your strawberries. Cut half of the bunch into odd size chunks that you can stir throughout the pudding. Take the other half and put them into a blender and whir like the Dickens. This should be straight puree; something you can fold into the custard base for your pudding. Taste it when whirred. If you like it, great. If you want more tart, add lemon. If you want more sweet, add sugar. You get the drift. If you want more of something, screw nature and make it taste the way you want it to.
  4. Get your base ready. There are so many ways to make bread pudding. The easiest way for me to remember how to go about it is to think ratios: 1 cup milk to 2 eggs (1 full egg, 1 yolk only) to 3 cups bread. For this recipe, you see the ratio in the Ingredients above. Put them in a bowl. I don’t think you need any other flavoring here but if you want to toss in some sugar, salt, lemon, vanilla, and even a shot or two of bourbon, have at it. Once these ingredients are together, froth it like your favorite barista — a hand or immersion blender is your bff at this point. Blend first without the strawberry puree, and then do a second blend after pouring in the puree. This is the genius of my recipe. Strawberry all up in this house now.
  5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. That gets its own step so you can check it off quickly and feel like you’re really moving at this point. Kind of like driving through Delaware on a trip to Florida. (“Really, we just crushed one whole state?”)
  6. Grease a baking dish (9×12) to start. Put in the bread. Go one layer. Then add diced strawberries and chocolate chips. Then slowly pour your base over the bread (about half used), making sure you spread evenly. Add another layer of bread, and repeat. Once done, let this stuff sit and soak for about 40 minutes (stirring gently at 20 and then again, gently, at 40.) At this point, you’re ready to bake. If you want to take this mixture and spoon it into muffin tins, go nuts. Spoon like nobody’s watching.
  7. Bake it. But cuddle it a little. Take the larger casserole dish and fill it 1/4 with water. Then rest the stuff you’re cooking in that water bath. Ban Marie. Great for terrines and custards, though the truth is, I’ve never made a terrine so the web could completely be lying to me. You’ll want to go at it for about 50 minutes straight. Slide the Ban Marie out, stick a knife in the center of the pudding and see if it comes out clean of everything other than chocolate. If it does, it’s ready. If it doesn’t keep cooking until it does. I had to go for 75 minutes because I went with a deeper dish. Variables. They change things you know?
  8. Let it set. When done, take it out of the oven and let it cool for 20. Then eat it in the best way possible — your way. I prefer taking the pudding out in a square and crisping the base on a skillet. Super wild contrast in flavors and textures at that point. But I don’t need or expect you to get it.

That’s the good word. I think it was a good bread pudding. I’d probably flavor the custard a bit more, be prepared to soak up some more of the custard with some additional bread, and perhaps think of a legit topping (strawberry glaze? more chocolate? powdered sugar?) I’ll let you know if I do by editing this in the future but my guess is, I won’t.

Pictures below to follow along if you’re interested.

Bread

Bread

 

Bread Baked

Bread 2

Strawberry

Strawberry

Custard Base (with Strawberry Tint)

Custard Base with Strawberry Tint

First Layer Assembled

Layer

Layer Closeup

Layer close up

Final Product

(Note: I forgot to take a picture of this before I packed it for hand-off to a friend. It had to be storage ready so go ahead, hate me for crappy presentation. It will taste great and you’ll hate yourself for hating on me.)

Finish

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Trial & Error | Recipe | MF’n Toast

The simple things. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what kind of options you have available to you, the simplest of things done just right and consumed at the perfect time make for magical moments.

Tonight I had that experience with toast. Juicy. Butter play toast. For. Real.

ToastIngredients

  • A slice of sourdough bread
  • Butter
  • Maple Syrup
  • Salt

Directions

  1. Butter bread. Avoid nooks and crannies so butter doesn’t leak when toasted.
  2. Toast bread to golden. It will take a little bit longer than usual but wait for it.
  3. Drizzle maple syrup on bread. Top off with a few sprinkles of salt.
  4. Indulge.

The balance of sour, sweet and salty. The crunch of the toast giving way to soft, butter soaked center. Everything in concert. Just magical.

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Trial & Error | Crock Pot | Chicken and Mushroom Soup

I love soup. I never make it. My sister does and she’s awesome at it. Which is part of the reason I don’t make it. Relative economic efficiency, I guess. I always make other stuff.

 

But when I looked under my cabinet one day to see these two beautiful crock pots, completely unused, something inside me clicked. And I found myself recently inspired to go crazy with those crock pots.

 

In the past three weekends I’ve made four dishes which have garnered some serious rave reviews. I don’t remember the exact recipes because I kind of made them up as I went along. That being said, I figure I might as well share what I do remember and leave the rest under the “season to taste” category found in many recipes.

 

The first recipe? Chicken and Mushroom Soup.

 

The goal for me first and foremost is hearty. I want to make any food I make feel substantive and hearty. In this case, I didn’t want to do this with noodles. To me, that’s a cop out. So I instead focused on the chicken and veggies to make it work.

 

Ingredients
  • Full rotisserie chicken
  • Fresh mushrooms, sliced or cubes. Go crazy. I used a mix of Bellas and Creminis – 4 small baskets.
  • Baby carrots (20)
  • Celery (5 stalks)
  • Parmesan rinds (3)
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne
  • Bay Leaves (2)
  • Water
  • Olive Oil

Directions

    1. Pull the chicken fully off the bone. Tear it or rough chop it but I kept it in fairly large sizes.
    2. Make your own stock. I put all of the chicken bones in a pot, added (to taste) butter, salt, pepper, cayenne, parmesan rinds, and water, and then boiled it for a good 90 minutes. I used 5 cups of water for reference given the size of the crockpot.
    3. Clean the mushrooms. And then either slice of cube them. But no need to sautee or anything. These preserve themselves well in the slow cooker method.
    4. Mandolin slice the baby carrots. Rough cut the celery (I went about 1/3″ pieces.) I like the contrasting sizes but basically, get carrots and celery into your crock pot.
    5. Lightly coat the bottom of the crock pot with olive oil. Toss everything into the crockpot. Add the homemade stock (including the parmesan rinds.) Add additional water depending on the consistency you’re going for. And cook on high for 4 hours. If you want to start the chicken and soup actually going, put half of the water from the stock, the celery and the carrots into the crock pot to start and go from there.
If what comes out isn’t the best chicken soup you’ve ever had, you’re doing something wrong. Or I have ridiculously low standards.
The soup crushed it. Screw noodles. Overdone with chicken IMHO.

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Trial & Error | Going Vegan | Recipe, Dinner, Easy > Meatball Wrap

I actually had a great dinner last night and I’m happy because I was able to cobble something together at home, quickly and easily, that was also tasty and filling. Recipe below. My wife was going to make her own dinner but she took a bite out of this and asked me to make her one. She really liked it as well — and she eats everything!

Vegan Meatball Wrap

Why Am I Sharing This:

  • Because it was insanely easy and quite tasty. This is a tough time for me to go vegan since I’m still relatively immobile post shoulder surgery. The fact that I could make a meal like this with one hand means anyone out there can make this, and substitute accordingly.

Prep Time: 5 Minutes

Cook Time: 5 Minutes

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Prepare ingredients for assembly: 1) Remove 6 meatballs from packaging (I also flatten the meatballs so they’re easier to manage); 2) Remove mozzarella cheese; 3) Slice bread accordingly; 4) Slice tomato; 5) Remove arugula; 5) Cut Jalapeno; 6) Keep spices readily available
  • Put all ingredients except for bread and arugula in a bowl, stir, cover (with a plate ideally), and microwave for 60 seconds
  • Drizzle olive oil onto/into bread for moisture (Optional – Crisp bread/wrap on a skillet for a few moments to change texture)
  • Layer arugula on bread
  • Place ingredients from bowl into/onto bread

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