To celebrate Gil‘s 38th birthday tomorrow, I thought I’d treat him to dinner this evening at a nearby restaurant with the excellent and unusual reputation of fine French dining in a casual strip mall atmosphere. Sadly, today’s snow closed the restaurant prematurely and we had to reschedule for next weekend, so I broke out the latest issue of Food & Wine to make him a birthday dessert that would take some of the sting out of his missed dinner.

“That must be some dessert!” you say. “Whatever could it be?” Oh, just a little something called Warm Chocolate Croissant-Bread Pudding.

As you know, I’m no stranger to the charms of bread pudding and I’ve often substituted croissants for bread when I’ve thrown caution (and calories) to the wind, but this is easily 10 steps beyond anything I’ve made. And it was so simple! Just a few ordinary ingredients, about an hour of my time, and Gil and I were stumbling around in a lovely chocolate- and carbohydrate-driven serotonin haze.

I probably should’ve made the full recipe instead of half, but with the snow, it was unlikely that an ambulance could reach us before we fell into diabetic comas. I’m already dreaming up variations and think that sautéed bananas and bittersweet chocolate would be excellent together here, but I’ll keep you updated.

recipe after the jump

Warm Milk-Chocolate Croissant-Bread Pudding from Food and Wine

3 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound milk chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used semi-sweet instead.)
6 large eggs
6 large croissants (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium saucepan, combine the whole milk with the vanilla bean and seeds and the salt and bring to a simmer. Cover and let the milk stand off the heat for 15 minutes. Discard the vanilla bean. Add half of the chopped milk chocolate to the warm milk and whisk until smooth. Let the milk and chocolate mixture cool for 15 minutes. Whisk in the eggs.

In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, toss the croissant pieces with the remaining chopped milk chocolate. Pour the chocolate custard over the croissant pieces; press lightly to submerge them in the custard. Bake for 30 minutes, until the bread pudding is risen and set. Let the chocolate bread pudding cool slightly, then cut it into squares and serve warm, with ice cream.

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