Tomorrow, two big trucks will pull up to a loading dock in Versailles, Kentucky and load cases of gloriously printed books. I suspect no one will be there to see them off, but in my minds eye I will be there. And some time tomorrow a Fed Ex truck will pull away with two overnight packages — one for Maria and one for me. On Saturday morning before 10:30 — at least that’s the Fed Ex promise, those packages will arrive. In each package will be one hardcover and one soft cover edition of At Home by Steve Poses: Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining. And so, the book is arrives.
One of Pascal’s many portraits of me.
Section 7 — the final Section — is appropriately titled Sweet Endings. This section is divided into two chapters. Chapter 18 is Desserts for Non-Bakers. Desserts for Non-Bakers does not mean that none of these recipes spend time in the oven. Today’s preview of White Chocolate Bread Pudding is an example of a baked dessert that me, as a non-baker, would tackle. Of Chapter 18’s twenty-seven recipes, five spend time in the oven, but do not require the meticulous measuring and patience of “real” baked desserts. Among the desserts is a Chocolate Risotto with Mangoes & Raspberries — a sort of warm rice pudding on steroids. There are lots of wonderful ices creams and sorbets and fruit-based desserts that would provide a delicious sweet ending for any meal.
We have served this White Chocolate Bread Pudding at many a Frog Commissary Catering event and never fails to get oohs and ahas.
White Chocolate Bread Pudding
This lavish dessert will please even the white chocolate doubters amongst your guests. Use bread that’s a day old and leave the crust on for best results. Sliced and sugared fresh fruit, such as peaches, strawberries or raspberries would be a nice accompaniment for the bread pudding, when seasonal.
do ahead Pudding may be made four days ahead and kept in the refrigerator.
Bring to room temperature; reheat, uncovered, at 275° for 30 minutes.
6 cups 1⁄2-inch cubed challah bread
12 ounces chopped white chocolate
1⁄2 cup dried cherries, cranberries, apricots or raisins (optional)
2 cups heavy cream
1⁄4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄8 teaspoon table salt
bittersweet chocolate sauce (optional; see p. 420)
1 Arrange bread in a 9″ by 9″ baking dish or a deep pie dish (about 91⁄2 inches across). If using dried fruit, scatter it over the bread.
2 Make the custard: In a heavy saucepan, bring cream almost to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in white chocolate. Cover pan and let mixture rest for 5-10 minutes, then whisk it smooth. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Then whisk in milk, vanilla and salt. Pour hot cream and chocolate into the egg mixture all at once, whisking constantly.
3 Arrange an oven rack to the upper-middle shelf and preheat oven to 275°.
4 Pour the warm mixture over bread. Pat bread down with an open palm so the cubes are all submerged. They pop right back up again, but they got dunked, which is the important part. Bake for 45-55 minutes. The center of the bread pudding will puff up and feel firm to the touch when it is done.
5 Serve warm. Garnish with lightly sweetened whipped cream, a smattering of fresh fruit and/or a drizzle of bittersweet chocolate sauce.
Dressing Up Store-Bought Desserts
Most any store-bought dessert benefits from some fresh whipped cream served on the side. Likewise, it’s the rare guest who would turn down an embellishing little scoop of ice cream. (You can pre-scoop your ice cream and store in the freezer to avoid the rush and hassle of scooping too-hard ice cream at the last minute.) Berries sprinkled with a bit of sugar render a syrupy yet simple sauce. If you are store-buying your desserts, consider getting several small versions to make a mini buffet or serve as a plated trio. Having said that, it’s better to serve something small and wonderful from a great bakery than several larger and inferior desserts. Individual cupcakes, removed from their wrappers and dressed up, make for a more personal dessert than slices of cake.
Less than two weeks left to buy the book — and companion website — and receive a signed, numbered first edition.
Note: I will be speaking all about At Home — book and companion website — at the Free Library on Thursday, October 15 beginning at 7:30 PM. Hope to see you there.