The humble origin of bread pudding dates back to thirteenth century England when a “poor man’s pudding” was assembled from stale leftover bread, bits of fruit, and spices moistened with sweetened water. Contrast those lean and thrifty pudding with contemporary versions served in upscale restaurants. Today’s puddings are made with egg breads such as brioche and challah, egg and heavy cream based custard, and heavily sweetened with sugar. There’s a lot to like about the technique and texture of modern bread puddings, but clearly a recipe renovation is needed.
In my version, cashew cream, coconut milk, and a root starch make the creamy custard, and a healthy dose of chocolate provides the wow factor. I use protein-rich, easy-to-digest sprouted bread, but any bread you like will do. I’ve made this dish successfully with gluten free bread too. Serve the pudding warm right out of the baking dish, or make it ahead and warm before serving. If you want to spice up brunch with Ms. or Mr. Sweetie, try the heart-shaped variation at the end. Want your banana bread pudding even creamier? Serve with a good dollop of Vanilla Custard Cream.
Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread Pudding
Makes 8 Servings
- 6 slices sprouted wheat bread, or another bread, gluten-free is fine.
- 1/2 cup / 37 grams raw whole cashews: soak a few hours in water, or quick soak in boiling water for 30 minutes.
- 1/2 of a 13.5 to 14-ounce / 400 to 414-ml can unsweetened full-fat coconut milk, well-stirred (do not use light)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons / 76 grams organic granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml pure maple syrup (Grade B or dark amber) or agave syrup
- 2 teaspoons / 10 ml pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon / 7 grams tapioca starch or organic cornstarch
- 1 medium-size banana, good and ripe
- 3 1/2 ounces / 99 grams dark chocolate (any percentage), chopped into chunks
- Cut the bread into roughly 1-inch / 2.5 cm chunks. Put the bread into a large bowl and set aside until needed.
- Drain the cashews and put them into a blender. Add the coconut milk, sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla. Blend, starting on low and increasing the speed to high for 1 minute or until the liquid is perfectly smooth. (If you have a high-speed blender, this will take about 1 minute. If using a standard blender, blend the ingredients in 2 or 3 batches until perfectly smooth.)
- Add the tapioca or cornstarch to the blender and blend for 1 minute. Pour the liquid into a 2-cup measure and add enough water or nondairy milk to equal 1 1/3 cups / 320 ml.
- Pour the liquid over the bread and set aside to soak about 15 minutes, stirring gently with a silicone spatula a couple of times, until the bread is soft and has absorbed most of the liquid.
- While the bread soaks, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375˚F / 190°C. Oil the sides and bottom of an 8 x 8-inch / 20 x 20 cm baking pan.
- Spoon the bread mixture into the prepared pan. Coarsely chop the banana and stir into the bread. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks over the top. Press some of the chocolate into the bread mixture.
- Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven. Immediately reduce the heat to 350˚F / 180°C. Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly puffed and firm to the touch. Let cool slightly before serving.
Serve warm or refrigerate until cold. Reheat in the oven. Serve with some of the leftover ganache you have in your refrigerator or freezer, warmed to pouring!
The bread pudding is best eaten the same day but may be refrigerated in a covered container overnight.
Bread Pudding Hearts: After the pudding has baked and cooled, refrigerate it until firm. About 30 minutes before you are ready to eat, remove the pudding from the refrigerator and cut small heart-shaped portions, or one large heart to share. Place on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350˚F / 180°C. Set the table while the pudding hearts heat in the oven back to melty, chocolaty goodness, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, by Fran Costigan, (Running Press 2013). Photo credit: © Kate Lewis