Gwen Ashley Walters, What Are You Baking?

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Even if your oven sits cold all year, chances are you're considering
firing it up, right about now. As a holiday twist on our "What Are You
feature on Chow Bella and "What Are You Wearing?" on Jackalope
Ranch, for the next few weeks we'll be bringing you "What Are You
Complete with a recipe, so you can DIY.

Today's treat: brioche and chocolate bread pudding from Gwen Ashley Walters -- local chef, critic and mistress of many disguises. Check her out on her blog, Pen & Fork. 

What are you baking for the holidays this year?
I'm more of a savory cook than a baker, but I developed this brioche and chocolate bread pudding recipe to go with an easy holiday menu for a cooking class, and I like it so much I think I'll bake it again for our holiday.

Favorite holiday treats?
On Christmas day, I grill a molasses marinated beef tenderloin that is out of this world. It has tons of pepper and ginger and other spices. I also love soft, chewy ginger cookies, but I like other people to bake them for me. Hello, anyone?

Least favorite holiday foods?
Fruitcake and eggnog. Ick.

Find out what kind of ham is on Walters' Christmas list, and get her pudding recipe after the jump.

Any food items on your holiday wish list this year?
I wouldn't be disappointed if someone gave me a hunk of Jamon Iberico Bellota ham. And I'm always thrilled to get a bottle of rosé, which pairs perfectly with the ham, by the way.

Any food-related New Year's resolutions?
Eat with abandon.

Brioche & Chocolate Bread Pudding(serves 15)

1 teaspoon butter
1 loaf (1 pound) day-old brioche bread cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
4 eggs
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 vanilla bean
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chopped

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, rub 1 teaspoon of butter all over a 13 X 9 X 2 glass baking pan and set aside.

2. Whisk cream, milk, eggs, sugar and salt together until blended.

3. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the cream mixture and whisk again. Discard the bean, or cover with sugar to make vanilla sugar.

4. Place the bread cubes in the buttered pan. Sprinkle with the chopped chocolate.

5. Pour the cream mixture over the bread cubes. Let sit for 5 minutes to soak up the liquid, pressing down the top bread cubes, if necessary, to soak all the cubes and distribute the chocolate evenly.

6. Set the pan into a larger pan in the oven and pour enough hot water into the larger pan to come half way up the sides of the bread pan. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (no milky residue), about 50 minutes.

7. Cool slightly and serve with butter "scotch" sauce.

Butter "Scotch" Sauce
makes two cups

1-1/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Scotch whisky
Pinch salt

1. Melt brown sugar and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the butter is melted.

2. Stir in cream and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and stir in Scotch and salt. Cool slightly before serving.

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