Chunky Monkey Bread Pudding / by Chelsea Zwieg

Oh, bread pudding. Don't you think there are some words that just sound good, before you even take a taste? Something about the words 'bread pudding' just sounds so wonderful and warm and comforting that I'm instantly sold. And it's lucky it's got such a killer sounding name, because it's definitely not the prettiest kid on the block. The first time I had bread pudding was at a restaurant in Wisconsin called North Star Bistro. They have a banana chocolate chip bread pudding that is served warm with vanilla gelato and caramel sauce I just remember thinking, there cannot be anything as wonderful. There just can't be.  

So when I was left with some extra challah (after making french toast grilled cheese, which you should really do too), I knew what I needed to make. One of the best things about bread pudding is that it lets you use up any stale bread and, unlike other uses for stale bread (hi, croutons) it turns the bread into a soft, custardy pillow of wonderful rather than drying it out even more and calling it a salad topping. I'm not a big crouton person, in case you couldn't tell. 

For this round of bread pudding, I decided to give it the Ben and Jerry's chunky monkey treatment by adding bananas, chocolate chunks and walnuts. Overly ripe, banana bread worthy bananas are perfect for this, and it keeps us right on the theme of all-my-food-is-old-what-do-i-make-now. Give me your stale bread and your too ripe bananas and I will give you your new favorite desert. You can use pretty much any kind of bread in bread pudding (although something really hearty like multigrain would probably not have the best texture), but breads like brioche or challah are especially good. If you want this bread pudding immediately (I get it) but don't have any stale bread lying around, you can easily fix that problem. Just tear a fresh loaf into chunks, spread them on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven at 350 for 5-10 minutes until they're dried out. 

What you end up with is bread taken to a warm, sweet, custardy place you never knew it could go. Add in some melty chocolate and toasted walnuts and I'm a happy camper. You can serve this plain or with a scoop of ice cream or drizzle of caramel if you're feeling fancy. However you do it, just do it soon. 

Chunky Monkey Bread Pudding

Note: If you don't have stale bread on hand, dry the bread cubes out in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes. 

| Ingredients

  • 1/2 loaf stale challah bread, cut into cubes (about 5-6 cups) 
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chunks

| Instructions

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 2 qt. baking dish. 

In a large bowl, combine bread cubes, chocolate chunks and chopped walnuts. Slice 1 banana and add to the bread mixture, tossing to combine. Transfer bread to the prepared baking dish, spreading into an even layer.

In a small bowl, whisk together milk, vanilla, brown sugar and eggs. Add the second banana and whisk well, mashing the banana as you stir. I found that popping the banana into the microwave for 30 seconds helped it mash much easier. 

Pour the milk mixture over the bread, making sure it is evenly coated and gets into all of the little holes. You want it to come just below the top of the bread, with the top chunks still sticking out (this will give it a crispy, golden top). Let sit for 15-20 minutes, so the bread can absorb some of the cream. Bake 30-35 minutes until and toothpick comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Serve warm.