Monday, April 28, 2014

Nutella Banana Bread Pudding

Rich and decadent challah bread is used for this delicious bread pudding.  If you make your own bread, it turns out even better and it makes the house smell amazing!  Bread pudding is a great comfort food and when you add bananas and nutella...just speechless.

Theraputic topic for the week: comfort foods

When sick, or tired, or far from home, everyone seems to yearn for the gastronomic equivalent of a warm sweater, a kiss on the forehead, a favorite blanket. Macaroni and cheese might mean comfort to you. Or perhaps your source of succor is beef stew or udon noodles.  Studies have shown that people cognitively connect important past associations with specific foods. Craving ice cream, for example, may stem from a desire to recapture carefree, childhood days of running after the ice cream truck.

Nutella Banana Bread Pudding Recipe
Adapted from Anne Thornton

Cooking spray or butter, for the pan
1 (13-ounce) container Nutella
12 (3/4-inch) thick slices challah or egg bread (recipe below)
8 large eggs
1 quart half and half
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup almond milk 
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 ripe bananas

Spray or butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish.

Spread the Nutella on all your bread slices, then put 2 slices together to make 6 sandwiches. Cut each sandwich into 8 pieces and toss them into a large bowl. Crack your eggs in another large bowl and whisk in the half and half, milk, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts. Pour this mixture over the sandwich cubes. Now, mash your bananas and stir that into the bread cube mixture. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Let stand at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours, occasionally pressing the bread into the custard mixture. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until the pudding is set in the center, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm.

Challah Bread

Challah bread is great for soaking up delicious custards.  You can use it for french toast or bread puddings.  It is a rich, strong bread with a slight sweetness and can be eaten plain.  There are many different braiding techniques, this one uses a four braid.  You can find different braiding techniques here.

Challah Recipe
Makes two large loaves

1 1/2 cup warm water, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons instant yeast
6 cups flour -- either all white or half white whole wheat
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup mild honey, plus an extra tablespoon for eggwash, if desired
2/3  cups flavorless vegetable or canola oil
4 eggs, plus one yolk for eggwash, if desired
1 pinch ground cardamom, optional 

Put 1 cup warm water in a small bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar, sprinkle the yeast over top, swirl the bowl just to combine, and leave it to proof for five minutes. 

While yeast is proofing, mix flour, salt, 1/4 cup of sugar and cardamom, if using, in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.) Stir to incorporate or blend on low speed.
In a medium bowl, mix remaining water, honey, oil, and eggs. 

When yeast has finished proofing, add it to the flour, immediately followed by wet ingredients. Mix with a large wooden spoon or on medium-low speed in the mixer, just until combined, about 30 seconds. 

Switch to dough hook and begin to knead on low speed, making sure to incorporate what's at the bottom of the bowl if the dough hook misses it. If kneading by hand, stir using spoon until dough becomes to thick to stir. Empty dough onto well-floured surface and knead by hand. Knead dough until smooth and no longer sticky, adding flour with a light hand as needed, 7-10 minutes. 

Split the dough into two equal pieces. Set each in a large oiled bowl, cover both bowls with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size. If using white flour, this should take about 2-2.5 hours. If using white whole wheat, it will take closer to 3.5 or 4. Feel free to let the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight instead; if you do this, be sure to set out the dough in plenty of time before shaping, so it can come to room temperature. 

Preheat oven to 375.
After the rise, the dough should be soft and pliable. Separate each mound of dough into three equal balls, for a total of six. Roll each ball into a log almost 1-foot long. Braid the logs together to create your loaf. For the nicest-looking braid, do not pinch the top edges of your logs together before braiding; simply place one log over the next and braid until you reach the bottom, then pinch those edges together. Then, flip the unfinished loaf the long way, so that the unfinished edge is now at the bottom and the loaf has been flipped over and upside down. Finish braiding and pinch these edges together. This way, both ends look identical. Tuck the very tips beneath the loaf when braiding is finished. 
Repeat with second loaf. 

Put each loaf on its own silpat-lined baking sheet. If using egg wash, mix yolk with a 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon honey. Brush over loaves. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-22 minutes, until challot are golden and baked through.

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