Cherry chocolate bread pudding. Photo: Tara Deshpande Tennebaum
In 1944, the Japanese 15th army occupied Garrison Hill in Kohima, Nagaland. They used a cherry tree near by for sniper practice. What followed was one of the greatest wars ever fought. A small band of British and Indian troops besieged and outnumbered, halted the Japanese invasion of India. A branch grafted from this cherry tree now lies over the memorial commemorating the sacrifice of 917 brave Indians. Yet many Indians have never heard of ‘The Battle Under The Cherry Tree’.
Cherries and chocolate are an irresistible combination. I make my bread pudding with the crust on.
Ingredients (serves 8-10)
1.5 cups pitted cherries
1/2 cup cointreau or brandy (optional)
Half a loaf of white sandwich bread diced into one-inch cubes
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1/3 cup good quality cocoa unsweetened (Dutch or regular)
400 ml cream
400 ml whole milk
½ cup white sugar
7 eggs beaten with 1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup skinned and lightly toasted walnuts (optional)
Glacéed orange or whole cherries as garnish
1. Soak the cherries in alcohol for 2 hours or the previous night. Refrigerate in an airtight container or glass jar.
2. Remove from the refrigerator and reserve in a heatproof mixing bowl.
3. Toss the cubed bread in a large 12 inch round baking dish about 4 inches deep or adjust the size based on what you have in the kitchen.
4. Heat the milk, cream, sugar and cocoa in a large saucepan on low heat.
5. Stir constantly to prevent burning until the mixture begins to bubble.
6. Add the semi-sweet chocolate and switch off flame. Stir to melt the chocolate.
7. Rapidly whisk in the beaten eggs and vanilla.
8. Use a sieve and strain the chocolate egg mixture over the soaking cherries to remove egg bits. Stir well.
9. Pour over the cubed bread. Press down on the bread to ensure all the cubes are well soaked.
10. Cover and let the bread absorb some of the liquid for about 15 minutes.
11. Pre-heat your oven to 300 F. Prepare the middle rack.
12. Scatter the walnuts over the bread pudding and using a flat spoon stir them gently into the pudding.
13. Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking another 20 minutes until the custard is soft but set. The pudding shouldn’t ooze liquid.
14. I like the pudding as is, but you can serve it warm with whipped cream, crème anglaise or vanilla ice-cream.