Gramercy Tavern Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding: if at first you don’t succeed….

So, I decided to try my hand at the delectable Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding at the Gramercy Tavernrecipe here, courtesy of their amazing pastry chef Nancy Olson.

Quite scared that if I can make this pudding even half as well as the chefs at the Gramercy I’ll be making it all the time…

It’s relatively simple.  Get a brioche loaf – M&S do this nice one:

Chop the crusts off, and chop it into little squares:

Then there’s a slightly complicated bit where you have to add x to y, then y to x, then xy to z and z to xy…  I should have roped in a friend at this point, as you need to add and whisk simultaneously, which is easier when one person holds the bowl and one whisks…however, given that I decided to make it in the middle of the night, this was easier said than done.    (x = a mix of eggs and milk, y = hot milk, cream, vanilla and sugar, z = molten chocolate.)

The logical part of my brain is saying ‘I’m sure if you just added x to y, then y to z, it would work out exactly the same’ but the paranoid, anxious part of my brain (98%) is saying ‘if you don’t do exactly what Nancy Olson says, the world will end.’  Call me Chicken Licken.

Anyway, do what Nancy says, or else, and then pour that over the brioche, smush it a bit, then add chunks of chocolate.

This photo speaks volumes about what a slovenly cook I am.  Really, those chunks should be a third of the size, and cut with a knife but I just could not be bothered to do it neatly.  Not least because x to y to x to z had left my kitchen counter with various smudges of egg and cream and chocolate that needed wiping up.  Anyway on Sunday I shall show and tell regarding what it’s like when you actually eat it….

postscript: so by the time I put it in the oven, we had drunk 9 bottles of wine between 7 of us.  The photos are terrible:

and do it no justice whatsoever.  Also, I messed up on my US conversions and had a bit too little cream to milk and not quite enough brioche, so there was too much sauce – however it tasted amazing.  Am going to remake next weekend on a smaller scale and repost the finished product.


OMG, my friends, OMG.  Made it TWICE this weekend, this time doing the maths properly.  It was totally amazing.  I mean, it’s brioche smothered in chocolate custard, with a bit of molten chocolate on top – what is not to love about that?

But still…  Anyway, as I was making it for Mother’s Day I invested in posh chocolate chips – well, Dr. Oetker posh, as opposed to hacked chunks.

Alors, pre-oven comme ca:

Post oven it rises beautifully:

And the texture, when you use enough proper double cream, is just so utterly squidgy, light and perfect.

Magnificent served with this perennial favourite:

and, er, double cream too…

Sophie Klein’s interview cake…

There’s a scene near the beginning of Pear-Shaped where Sophie makes a cake to take to her interview at Fletchers.  She chooses this Orange and Almond cake by the marvellous Claudia Roden.  I have no idea why I chose this particular cake when I was writing the book – I’d never eaten it, let alone made it.  I guess I just liked the idea of it.

But it’s been on my mind for a year now, and I’ve recently become obsessed with blood oranges and bitterness – so I finally got my arse in gear and I’m so glad I did.  It is the easiest cake in the world, and if you’re not averse to bitterness, I’d say it is show-stopping, particularly in terms of texture.

Other plus points: it only has five ingredients; and it’s flour free, so very good if you’re cooking for someone who can’t or won’t do wheat / gluten.  And actually, it’s almost entirely fruit, egg and almonds – so, fruit and protein (kind of) – therefore an optimum lean-muscle-building health snack….er…

Anyway, first boil two oranges for a very long time.  I used blood oranges, rather than regular.

Boil them whole, then chop them up and remove the pips.

Blitz them in a magimix:

Beat six eggs:

Add the three remaining ingredients – sugar, loads of ground almonds, a tiny bit of baking powder.

Apart from the oranges boiling for two hours, the actual prep part, once they’re boiled, takes less than four minutes.  Bake the cake for 50 minutes.  Sprinkle with icing sugar (ok, that’s ingredient six if you’re being pedantic) – and voila…

You’re using the entire orange, including the peel, so while the boiling does remove most of the bitterness, this is not a super-sweet cake experience.  Nonetheless it is beautiful and delicate and squidgy and luscious and light. (And I am a person who does not normally consider dessert to qualify as dessert unless it contains chocolate or custard or both.)

No wonder Sophie got the job…

Next time I make it, and there will be a next time, I’m going to experiment with a dark chocolate ganache on the side – I think something velvety (and chocolaty) would work brilliantly with it.

New York – the highlights

In the back of Pear-Shaped there is a mini guide to my favourite places to eat in New York.

Last weekend  I was in New York for 40 hours (sounds glamorous, was not.  Was more like sleep-deprivation endurance test with bourbon and douche-bags to keep me awake.  Actually was not so bad, in retrospect…)

In those 40 hours I tried to get round some of the places I’d listed to take photos to illustrate my choices.

So, from the top:

Corner Bistro burger, west Village:

Best eaten at 3am, after a drunken night in a super-hip underground bar on Great Jones Street that you can only access by crawling through a fire-exit backwards.

Corner Bistro is entirely to the point: meat, meat, meat.  They play rock and roll (but not in a try-hard way, purely in an IT’S 1989! FIRST TIME ROUND! way.)  It’s spit and sawdust.  But man oh man: that is a burger.  Looks plastique but it so entirely satisfies one’s basest instincts.

Serving suggestion: serve when drunk.  When almost finished, order second burger for pudding.   Then go to bed on double-burger stomach.  Wake up, vow to eat sushi all day, then immediately go to Gramercy Tavern –

– my favourite New York restaurant evah! – and order their cheeseburger.

I know, I have a disease (known as greed.)

But it was so entirely unavoidable.  The waitress said the potato salad had bacon in it.  And then she said the home made mayonnaise was laced with bacon.  LACED WITH BACON. That is so the title of my autobiography.  She then explained that the beef was grass fed, from an eco-friendly farm in Virginia.  (I mean, of course that is what a cow should be fed, but the way she said it made it sound like the cow was so damn happy before it was, like, not happy.)

The cheese was Cabot cloth bound Cheddar from Jaspar Hills farm in Vermont.  Vermont! Cabot cloth bound!  Doesn’t that sound so darn regional and home-made and artisanal and delightful!  I don’t know anything about Vermont or about cloth-bound cheeses.  What, pray tell, is a Cabot? But quite frankly if she’d said burka-bound I’d have ordered the damn burger at that point.

Onwards and upwards.  When you’ve had 3 burgers in 10 hours, what your body REALLY REALLY needs is hot chocolate that’s thicker than custard.  Yes, City Bakery hot chocolate – one of the 7 Wonders of the World.

And whatdoyouknow?  February just happens to be Hot Chocolate month at City Bakery – a different flavour each day, including ‘Super Bowl Flavour’ (with beer) and one called ‘Hot Chocolate On A Peanut Butter Barge’.

I would trust no other hot-chocolate seller in the world to carry off these flavours.  But the hot chocolate here is a drink of such magnificence, a guaranteer of instant good mood – that if anyone can do it, they can.

You can order it by the bowl, by the shot

or by various cup sizes.

What you cannot do is ever hope to live a non-obsessed life afterwards.

I forgot to mention pudding at The Gramercy.  This is the warm chocolate bread pudding (made with brioche) that Sophie and Pauly in Pear-Shaped both trek across town for.

Sure, it looks all fancy-shmancy sitting there with its ice cream companion on a bed of cocoa nibs with a chocolate curl hat.

But when you get into it, it’s a squidgy, unrestrained, melting chocolate delight.

And just look how pertily they serve their cappuccinos!

My final pit-stop was for spicy sausage and mushroom pizza at John’s on Bleeker.

NY pizza wars are legendary.  John’s may or may not be the best.  Jack Black says John’s has the best brick-oven – so good he orders his pizzas plain.  And Janice Dickinson (America’s Next Top Model is NOT the same without her) clearly finds John’s so delightful she can barely keep her skirt on.

Suffice to say, it’s good pizza.

One final thought, from a billboard on the Bowery…

I don’t know if burgers and pizza and hot chocolate count as material possessions what with them being temporary and all, but they sure do cheer a girl up.

p.s. I’m going to try making the Gramercy chocolate pudding on Saturday night and if it’s any good I’ll post it here soon.