For a while when I was a kid, my dad was a partner in a Wall Street law firm. (He’s also served in the U.S. Attorney’s office and as a federal and state judge, but I digress.) If you know anything about the legal world of New York City, you know that it’s intense and stressful, and takes so much of my dad’s vacation time spent on work, that he ended up in the hospital with heart problems.
My mother (whose father was a cardiologist, so she knew of heart problems) put her foot down and said, “That’s it! We’re going far enough on vacation and they won’t call you!” (Of course, that was in the days before email and cell phones This effort is more difficult today!)
As a result, for a few years, my parents used the Vacation Exchange Club – an early iteration of the Airbnb concept – to find properties to rent in Europe for a month. One year that meant we spent the month of July in the lovely apartment of her “mother-in-law” in the suburbs of Paris.
Since there were two young children in the family – my sister and I were 10 and 13 at the time – the property owners told my parents about a day camp in town where they could just sign us up for random days here and there, whenever they wanted to enjoy a day in Paris without the kids. Thus, although we know a little French, my parents left us. It was definitely a fun experience, but what I remember most – not surprising – is the food they serve. A hot lunch may include fish with lemon butter sauce, Coke or Vin, and often our morning and afternoon snack was a big slice of baguette with a piece of dark chocolate.
The local Berkshire Mountain Bakery, one of our great artisanal producers here in Berkshire, does this even better with its loaf of bread and chocolate, which always reminds me of those snacks at our French day camp. The bread is a rich, chewy baked dough with a veritable galore of great mixed dark chocolate bars. Excellent on its own, it’s also great on French toast. But my favorite recipe with this decadent dessert makes it more like bread pudding.
This recipe calls for half a loaf that’s enough for dessert and leftovers with just two, but it can definitely be doubled up with a larger pan.
Many of the recipes I turn to now are ones that can be made easily – and easily frozen. Two of my recent favorites are the two-ingredient pumpkin cake I found in my recipe box and the four-ingredient coconut macaroon that came from my mother-in-law.
Bread and chocolate bread
Cooking spray or butter for greasing the skillet
1/2 loaf Berkshire Mountain Bakery & Chocolate bread, sliced, halved, about 9 ounces (or 6-7 ounces sourdough bread plus 1/2 cup chocolate chips, about 3 ounces)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a shallow baking dish or gratin tray, large enough to hold bread in approximately two layers, with cooking spray or butter.
Arrange the bread slices in the prepared baking dish. Combine the milk, cream, and eggs, and whisk until well combined.
Pour the custard mixture over the bread. Let it soak for 30-45 minutes, pressing down from time to time with a spoon to help all the pieces absorb the custard.
Sprinkle vanilla sugar on top of the bread pudding if you are using it.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the custard is fully cooked through. Serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream or caramel sauce.
Elizabeth Bayer is a teacher who loves to spend time in the kitchen. She also posts recipes and meditations on food on her blog, culinursa.com/blog and can be reached at [email protected]