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Zen and the Art of Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding


We were on the New Jersey shore last week, for an extended-family vacation, and I learned a few things about life, family, and cooking. The first is the secret recipe for a successful extend-family vacation:

                            Two houses + the words of Thich Nhat Hanh = great happiness.

Let me explain: I find sharing a house with too many relatives too stressful, and this year we were fortunate to have two houses close together. Keeping one family in one house and mine in another proved to be very, very relaxing. The other ingredient, the words of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, came to me through his new book, “The Art of Communicating.” I suggest it for all people who need to talk to anyone else, ever. It is (close to) magic.

Speaking of magic, the first night we were at the shore, my mother took the whole gang to dinner at Bistro 14, an extremely tasty and inviting restaurant in Beach Haven, where we had a dessert that made my head spin: Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding.

Like all good magic tricks, it is based on simplicity, but that doesn’t take anything away from its power. “It’s basically a riff on pain au chocolat,” the owner and chef Richard Vaughan said after I called him up and begged him for the recipe, “which is a croissant wrapped around a chocolate bar.”

A trip to Paris inspired the recipe. “The first thing you do in the morning there, is go to the patisserie and have a pain au chocolat,” Vaughan said. “My wife, Karen, came up with the idea of doing this back home, and the dessert was born.”

When they make the dish at the restaurant, they use eighteen croissants, and then cut out individual servings. “It’s always a good day for the staff when it’s time to cut up the servings,” Vaughan said. There are always extra scraps that aren’t appropriate for serving. “The staff hovers like seagulls,” Vaughan said, and gobble up the extra bits.

Vaughan was kind enough to scale the recipe down for the home chef. He said you can use any kind of chocolate chips, from Hershey’s to something more fancy, such as Valrhona (they use 2 ½ quarts of chips at the restaurant!). He added that this would make a great dinner-party dish—when it comes out of the oven, it puffs up, and if you can time it right, it would make a very dramatic, almost magical moment. Here’s the recipe.

Bistro 14's Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

  • 3 whole eggs
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 5 C half and half
  • 1 ½ C sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 6-8 croissants
  • chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the custard.  Mix the eggs, yolks, half and half, sugar and vanilla together until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Set aside. 

Slice the croissants.  Shingle the croissant bottoms in an ungreased baking dish.  Pour ½ of the custard over them.  Add a serious layer of chocolate chips.  Cover with the croissant tops, make sure you cover the chips completely, or they may burn. Add the rest of the custard.  Do it slowly, or it may run everywhere. Smoosh the croissants down so they absorb as much of the custard as they can.  Allow the pudding to rest for about 10 minutes.   

Bake tented with foil for least 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Uncover and finish baking for another 30 minutes.  Pudding is done when it is puffed and the custard is just set.  

Serve warm, or at room temperature, with heavy cream or crème anglaise.

Note: You can scale this dish up or down pretty directly.  We have even made individual bread puddings in soufflé ramekins, but in that case use a water bath to keep them from getting too dry on the outside.  

(Image courtesy of Deviantart.) 

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