Sometimes, very good ideas are born out of sheer laziness and forgetfulness. Take this chocolate strata – a few weeks ago, on a Friday, I was on my way home from a very long day on the heels of a very long week. I was thinking idly that dessert would be nice but, when I was on my way home, I flat out forgot to pick anything up (which is sad considering I was within half a block of Hello Cupcake on my way home).
And then it started pouring. And did I mention it was cold. In fact it was the perfect night to make homey comforting red cabbage but, as I was cooking dinner, I just couldn’t get excited about baking dessert. This is where a more motivated person would have pulled out the measuring cups and spoons and made something tasty but me, I was done for the day. I did think of making biscotti, just because it’s easy, but really wanted something even easier.
I was about to settle on some dark chocolate for dessert and completely give up on the baking idea when, reaching into the fridge for a red onion for the cabbage, I noticed that we had four eggs and some milk within days of expiration. And then I noticed I still had stale toasted bread cubes on the bottom shelf – the very same ones I had been promising to turn into bread crumbs for weeks but, since we already had a lot of breakcrumbs, never got around to blitzing in the food processor into breadcrumbs.
I hopped on MyRecipes.com, got a better sense of bread to egg to milk ratios in stratas and bread puddings, and went to work with what I had on hand. The result was exactly everything I had been wanting: homey, comforting, chocolatey, warm, not too sweet, custardy fluffly goodness with a touch of acidity from the raspberry sauce. I went heavy on the vanilla extract so as not to use additional sugar, but you could tweak the recipe to add sugar into the egg/milk mixture.
Lastly, I know today is tax day here in the U.S., so wanted to include a recipe that was easy and cheap – I love stratas but only make them when I do have leftover bread and some milk that needs to be used up – they are so easy and invariably delicious. For a savory version, see this recipe from a few weeks ago.
Chocolate Strata with Raspberry Sauce
4 cups stale bread, torn or cut into cubes (mine were about 1 inch cubes, but I also had some sliced bread – it was a mixture of stale baguette and stale sourdough bread)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
4-6 oz dark chocolate, broken up into pieces (or you could use about 1/3 cup chocolate chips)
11/2 cups milk (skim milk worked fine)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 tablespoon agave nectar
If your stale bread isn’t crispy stale, then preheat oven to 350° and place bread pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Grease the bottom of your casserole dish with the olive oil (CGL Note: you could use butter or cooking spray instead, I just really like the idea of extra virgin olive oil with chocolate and bread because of some desserts I have had at Spanish restaurants)Place the bread in bottom of a 8 x 8 baking dish coated with a touch of extra virgin olive oil (CGL Note: the casserole dish I used is about 8×8 but it’s deep – it’s about 3 inches high on the sides). Mix chocolate into the bread pieces. Combine milk, eggs, and vanilla extract, stirring well with a whisk. Pour over bread. Cover and chill 8 hours or overnight (CGL Note – that’s the way I have always made strata, but I only let this sit for about an hour before baking it, and it was still delicious) Preheat oven to 350°. Uncover strata; bake at 350° for 40 minutes and see if it is lightly browned and set. It may be, but if not, cover and bake another 15-20 minutes. In the meantime, simmer the raspberries over low to medium heat, mash them up to make them into a sauce and add agave syrup right before turning the heat off. Pour over individual servings of strata for utmost yumminess. Serve warm.