Brioche Bread Pudding with White Chocolate and Cardamom
Inspired by the Swedish verb/noun fika—meaning coffee break or to enjoy a coffee break--this bread pudding is an easy and satisfying complement to any beverage. Similar to the Swedish cardamom bun made with brioche dough, the custard of this bread pudding is steeped with our favorite Nordic spices, cinnamon and cardamom.
For the brioche: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, whisk the yeast and sugar together with the warm milk. Allow to sit for 5 to 7 minutes in a warm, draft-free place while the yeast blooms and forms a foamy raft on the surface. When this happens, your yeast is alive and ready to go.
Whisk 4 of the eggs into the yeast mixture until thoroughly combined. Add the all-purpose flour, bread flour and salt. Start the mixer on low speed and mix for 2 minutes, until the dough begins to come together into a shaggy mass. Increase the speed to medium and mix the dough for 2 minutes more to activate the gluten.
Add the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely incorporate before adding the next. The dough will get very sticky. Continue mixing until the dough is shiny and smooth, 3 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a well-greased large bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, remove the plastic and scoop the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Punch down the dough by pressing it firmly with your hands until it deflates back to its original size. Spread it out slightly and fold the dough into thirds like a letter, bringing the top half over the center and the bottom half up and over the center. Place the dough back into the greased bowl, seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to chill in refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.
Grease an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan (6-cup capacity) with butter or shortening.
Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and punch down once more. Scoop the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and flatten into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Starting from a shorter end, roll the dough up to form a log and place, seam-side down, in the prepared pan.
Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to proof one last time in a warm draft-free place, until the dough expands to reach the top of the loaf pan, 1 to 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat the remaining egg and 1 tablespoon of water to make your egg wash. Lightly brush egg wash all over the top of brioche. Bake until it is deep golden brown on top, 35 to 40 minutes. (If you are unsure if the brioche is done, the internal temperature should measure 200 degrees F.) Allow the brioche to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.
For the bread pudding: Slice the brioche into 1-inch cubes and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake until the bread cubes are crisp and slightly crunchy but not as hard as croutons, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool while you prepare the custard.
Add the milk to a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Add the cinnamon, peppercorns and nutmeg. Smash the cardamom pods with bottom of a bowl or glass, just enough for pod to burst and release seeds and add to the pot. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds with the back of a paring knife. Add the pod and seeds to the milk. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat to allow the aromatics to steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and sweetened condensed milk. Slowly stream into the infused milk mixture while whisking constantly.
Add the toasted brioche to a 9-by-13-inch ovenproof glass pan. Pour the milk and egg mixture over. (You may have to add half the milk mixture and let the bread absorb it before adding the rest.) Sprinkle the white chocolate chips over the top.
Bake until the custard is set, 35 to 40 minutes. If the bread pudding starts to brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil for the duration of cooking time.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.
If trying to proof dough or bloom yeast on a cold day, boil a pot of water and place on the bottom rack or bottom of the oven (do not turn the oven on). Put the dough on the top rack and close door, turning your oven into a proofing box.