When my wife and I visited Seattle, I took Rachel Ray’s advice and visited Caffe Ladro (twice). The first time I went, I tried a standard latte — the coffee by which I judge coffeehouses. It was very, very good — smooth and sweet with a great mouth feel brought about by an expert barista who really knew how to froth the milk and pull a shot. The second time I went, I took RR’s advice again and tried their Medici coffee, which is essentially a mocha spiced up with a bit of orange zest. That, my friends, was ethereal. I don’t normally “do” sweetened coffee, but this was harmony in a cup.
So it was with this cup of coffee in mind that I decided to create a bread pudding recipe — a way for me to both memorialize the trip and re-enjoy the simple but wonderful flavor combination of coffee, chocolate, and orange. A word of caution: if you try this, you may find yourself wanting to hop on a plane to Seattle to try the original. They are both that good.
medici bread pudding
7 large egg yolks
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp table salt
6 cups whole milk or half-and-half (I prefer the richness of the half-and-half)
2 tsp powdered espresso (try Medaglia d’Oro brand if you can find it)
12 oz. package of bittersweet chocolate chips (Guittard or Ghirardelli work well)
1 TB finely grated orange zest
1 TB pure vanilla extract
1 1-pound loaf of challah , cut into 1-inch cubes preferably stale)
If your bread cubes aren’t stale, dry them out in a 250F oven for 20-30 minutes — not so much that the cubes turn into croûtons, but enough so that they seem drier and stale. Set aside in a large bowl.
Whisk yolks, eggs, sugar, and salt together until thick and pale and set aside. Warm half-and-half in a saucepan until steaming but not boiling (about 180F). Add chocolate chips, powdered espresso, and orange zest to half-and-half and stir until chocolate is melted and completely mixed with milk.
Slowly whisk the half-and-half into the egg mixture until thoroughly combined. Add the vanilla extract. If you have a touch of OCD, you may want to strain the custard at this point, but if you were careful not to add the milk too quickly, you probably don’t have to.
Pour the custard over the dry bread cubes, making sure that the bread is submerged as much as possible. Set aside for about an hour to cool to room temperature. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan and pour the bread/custard mixture in. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 (but up to 24) hours. This allows the custard to penetrate the bread cubes completely so that you have no dry patches in your dessert.
About two hours before you want to serve it (if you want it served hot), cover the pudding with foil and bake in a preheated 325F oven for 70 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until no liquid is visible when you test with a paring knife (maybe 20-30 minutes).
This can be served hot, warm, room-temp, or chilled — every way has its own advantages. Its flavor is most intense just a few minutes out of the oven, but the custard is firmest when cooled. Any way you do it, dress it up with some whipped cream and a good cup of coffee.