I have a real aversion against waste of food. I just cannot stand it. I think it’s a crime against humanity and it really bothers me. These feelings come in part from the fact that I grew up in a relatively poor family. I never starved myself (although my parents did…post WWII in Europe were of course tough times) but I did have a lot of deprivations and I had parents that passed on me this thing of not wasting food as a strong moral rule. To this you have to add the fact that I have worked in the economic and rural development field for ten years, thus, even when I grew out of poverty myself I have seen and lived close to it in my years spent abroad (mainly Mexico and India). Now that I live in the US, of course, I experience a lot of food wasting and that really really really bothers me.
I mean, it happens to me too, you know? You go to the groceries, you buy a bunch of good food and then you have a tough week, no time to cook or are often out of home and you end up wasting food. It really happens to me too. But it still bothers me and I try to keep waste at a minimum. The one thing that is very easy to waste is bread. You buy it, you make it (and I love making it a lot!) and then it gets stale so quickly that you don’t have time to finish it, above all if your household is made of two people only, like mine.
However, bread really is something not to waste and I’m happy that there are thousands of ways to use stale bread. In Italy, though, we use it mainly in cooking but not really in baking. I realized this the other day when I found my stale bread bag soooo full that I could have fed an army but did not want to use it for cooking because it was just too hot to do anything. That’s when I thought of a wonderful way Americans (and others…but I’ve tried it here for the first time in my life) have to use stale bread: bread pudding. I love bread pudding. I simply love it and I don’t know how I could live for 30 years without knowing about it!
So, as other times, my turn came to try my first bread pudding. I had other things to use up, though, and in particular I had pears….one of my favorite fruit of all time. The chocolate-pear combo is a wonderful one in baking. In Italy chocolate-pear cake recipes are very common but I never tried a chocolate-pear bread pudding so I had to today! By the way, the chocolate-pear combo is known to be aphrodisiac (chocolate-pear cakes are made a lot around Valentine’s Day) but I thought “why should we wait until the dessert of a fancy dinner?! Why not start directly at breakfast or snack time?!”. I’m happy I tried: I loved my first bread pudding (and I used up all my stale bread and rotten pears!)
Chocolate Bread Pudding with a Pears Surprise
470 ml (16 fl oz or 2 cups) whole milk, warmed
60 gr (1/2 stick or 4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted in microwave
150 gr (5.3 oz or 3/4 cup) sugar
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
230 gr (8 oz) bread, cut into cubes
150 gr (5.35 oz or 1 cup) chocolate chips
3 small pears peeled and sliced or chopped
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In a large bowl, stir the warmed milk and the melted butter with the sugar, the eggs, and the vanilla extract. Whisk until incorporated and smooth.
Line a medium size baking dish with slices of pear and two-thirds of the bread cubes. Sprinkle with half of the chocolate chips and the remaining pears cut into small chunks. Top with the remaining bread cubes and chocolate chips.
Pour the milk mixture slowly over the top of everything and let stand until the bread has absorbed almost all of the liquid (5 to 10 minutes).
Wrap the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and cook for other 10 to 15 minutes, or until set in the middle and lightly browned on top.
Remove from oven and let cool before serving.
Adapted from Food Network