PAIN AU CHOCOLAT PUDDING (a twist on the classic bread-and-butter)

I won’t deny that I have a sweet tooth. Okay, maybe a few, but sickly sweet is not my thing. There comes a point with any flavour when your tastebuds just retreat in submission out of sheer overwhelm. Take, for instance, the bread-and-butter pudding. When it comes to stodgy desserts, there’s definitely something there, but good heavens, what a sweet mess! I mean, it’s basically layers of jam sandwiches drowning in a sweet custard. But what I find so great about this old poor man’s dessert from the British Isles is that it is so open to interpretation. There are no rules! So, to tone down the sweetness, I opted for a base of pain au chocolat (with a bittersweet chocolate filling) instead of jam sandwiches. What a homemade hit! And I love the fact that it comes with its own suggested portion sizes.

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As French as you may feel draped over a chair at a sidewalk café while sipping a cup of allongé noir and nibbling on a croissant, the illusion can become somewhat tainted by the reminder that the croissant is not originally French, but rather Viennese. Marie Antoinette is said to have introduced this celebrated flaky pastry to France. She was, of course, Austrian, if you follow. Wherever it came from, the croissant is an inseparable part of my life in France - that little reward you give yourself just for getting up in the morning, or for getting all dressed up just to sit around and people-watch outside a café. But while a plain croissant certainly has its place - and goes with the most surprising array of sweet, savoury and creamy condiments - if I’m honest, the chocolate croissant ticks most of my boxes. Of course you can make this puding with a plain croissant, but the question is, would you really want to?

PAIN AU CHOCOLAT PUDDING

Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes / serves: 8

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 pains au chocolat (chocolate croissants)

  • 6 egg yolks

  • 1 litre milk

  • 50 g (60 ml) caster sugar

  • 6 egg whites

  • 175 g (210 ml) caster sugar

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METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Butter a large oven dish and arrange the croissants in the dish.

  2. Beat the egg yolks, milk and 50 g of caster sugar together and pour over croissants. Let it soak for 30 minutes.

  3. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Then, take it out and make your meringue topping.

  4. While beating the egg whites until they form soft peaks, add the caster sugar spoon by spoon, continuing to beat well.

  5. Spoon the meringue onto the pudding and place it back in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the meringue starts to brown. If you want a more crispy meringue, reduce the heat of the oven to 140 °C until the meringue is crispy. Touch the meringue to test it. Serve warm.