Chocolate Bread Pudding with Nutty Crumb Topping

1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter or margarine (Note # 1)

grated peel of 1 orange
juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup raisins
4 to 5 cups bread including crusts, cut in 1/2″ to 3/4″ cubes (Note # 2)
1/4 cup baking cocoa
3/4 cups sugar
1 cup skim or low fat milk
1 tablespoon butter or margarine (Note #1)
3 large eggs (Note #3)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Process enough bread in a blender or food processor to make 1/2 cup of soft crumbs. Add the nuts, cinnamon, sugar and margarine, and process to a uniformly coarse crumb. Set aside.

Combine grated orange peel, orange juice and raisins in a 2-quart or larger bowl and set aside for the raisins to soften.

Cut the bread into cubes. If the bread is quite dry, use only 4 cups, but if it’s fairly fresh you may wish to increase it to 5 cups.

In a pan (for stovetop) or microwaveable dish, combine the baking cocoa and sugar. Add a small amount of the milk to make a paste. Add more milk little by little, scraping the bottom well. Add the 2nd tbsp. of margarine. Heat either on the stove or in the microwave, stirring frequently, until the margarine is melted and the sugar dissolved. Set aside.

Beat the eggs one by one into the orange juice mix. Add the chocolate and milk mixture little by little, beating well with a whisk or fork. Add the bread cubes and mix gently until all the cubes are covered with the liquid.

Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with non-stick spray. Pour in the pudding, poking to distribute the bread cubes evenly. Sprinkle the crumb mixture on the top, smoothing it evenly.

Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes or until a butter knife inserted in the center comes out uncoated.

Best served still warm with a little milk or whipped lite or fat-free topping. Cover when storing in the refrigerator.

Note #1: The healthiest choice is one of the newer margarines that have no hydrogenated fat or trans-fat, such as Smart Balance. If these are not available and cholesterol is a concern, you may substitute 1 each Tbsp. of vegetable oil.

Note #2: To get the right consistency, if the bread is fairly dry or stale, use only 4 cups, as it will absorb more liquid, but if it’s fairly fresh you may wish to increase it to 5 cups in order to avoid soggy pudding.

Note #3: You may substitute 3/4 cup of egg substitute to reduce cholesterol, or use eggs from specially fed chickens that have healthier Omega 3 such as Eggland’s best. Or substitute 3/4 cups of egg whites, but that will affect the flavor.

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