Celestial Double Chocolate Bread Pudding with Almonds

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Are we alone in the universe?

Some people think this is a fun question. Let me be more specific. Several members of my immediate family, ahem (science nerds), think this is a fun question. I think it is an interesting question, but it makes my stomach feel funny and I get disoriented and feel like I’m going to fall off the planet.

Meg was home for a few days (yay, happy mama), and we went for a beautiful walk yesterday. My daughter is one of the aforementioned science geeks and she was hoping to listen to a special NASA broadcast at noon. We decided to stream NASA on my phone while we picked mulberries and climbed big rocks. The guys at NASA told us that they have found a new “earth twin.” I was able to tolerate hearing this information because I was grooving on the most perfect summer day imaginable and grounding myself in my happy little bluest-sky-ever reality during the broadcast.

I hope you readers, including my astrophysics-minded loved ones understand that I respect and admire explorations of “the really, really big picture.” But I would much rather think about chocolate. And porcelain. And what do do with that leftover bread that Meg bought that wasn’t very good in the first place. And what newly fired bowls to use. It’s true. My reality is, indeed, tiny. But somebody has to make dessert while everyone else is talking about carbon vs silicone based life forms.

Truth be told, I am much less concerned about possible connections to beings in other solar systems than I am in my ability to relate to the people around my table. It is only with mindful focus that I feel I do a good enough job being in sync with myself. And it is only when I am in good touch with myself that I am any use to the people I love. So, I try to stay grounded rather than flying off into space. I am aware of my limits. The people in my family, however, are smarter than me and are able to do both. Which is very fun.

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Oh, so the answer to what to do with the leftover bread is: bread pudding. Chocolate bread pudding. With two kinds of chocolate: cocoa and chocolate chips. And almonds, because almonds and bread and chocolate are just amazing together. The chocolate custard soaks the bread, making it soft and gooey inside and a bit crusty outside. Dark chocolate makes it rich and sophisticated, but the texture is pure, homey comfort. It will remind you of pudding and french toast and chocolate chip cookies all at the same time.

It is likely that you have all the ingredients for this in the house. If you, like me, store leftover bread in the freezer, you can make it any time! It is, absolutely, out of this world! Make it on a gorgeous summer day. Or in the middle of the night while looking at the stars and thinking about “the really, really big picture.”

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Celestial Double Chocolate Bread Pudding with Almonds

Serves 4-ish

4 cups torn bread pieces, about the size of walnuts*
3 eggs
1 cup whole milk
½ cup sugar (I like organic cane)
¼ cup good quality cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
¼ cup sliced almonds
Baking spray (I use organic coconut oil)

*Day old bread is best. Something white and spongy works really well and makes a nice, soft pudding. If you use a bread that is more whole grain and crusty, soak it a little longer.

Preheat oven to 275°

Spray 4 ramekins or small ovensafe baking dishes or bowls (roughly 1 ½ cup size) with baking spray. Or use an 8 inch square or round baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, and cocoa powder. Add the bread pieces and press down to submerge all the misbehaving pieces of bread in the yummy chocolatey custard. Let the bread soak, mixing occasionally, for 15-20 minutes or so.

Reserve ¼ cup of the chocolate chips and 1 tbs. of the almonds for topping. Mix the remaining chips and almonds into the soggy bread. Don’t worry, this is supposed to be confusing. On the one hand, it’s sort of gross. On the other hand, chocolate chips!!!

Now, distribute the mixture evenly between the prepared dishes, and top with the reserved chips and almonds.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the centers are beginning to feel firm when pressed. If you’ve used a single dish, go for 35-40

Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. These are wonderful with Caramel Almond Ice Cream on top.

They can be covered and stored in the fridge for a day or two and reheated in the oven or microwave. There will be a slight loss of texture if you nuke them, but they’ll still be amazing.

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