Just Desserts

At the James Beard Foundation Awards for journalistic excellence in epicurean writing, Departures contributor Jay McInerney took home the most prestigious prize of all—the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award—for "Will Alain Ducasse Take Over the World?" in our July/August 2005 issue. In accepting the award named for the great food writer, McInerney noted that in 22 years of writing books such as Bright Lights, Big City and The Good Life, he had never won one for food writing. If that weren't enough, chef Cynthia Schneider, from the Grapevine Café in Donaldsville, Louisiana, topped off the dinner with the most sublime dessert. We asked her to share the recipe.

White-Chocolate Bread Pudding

8 Servings

Stale French bread, sliced 1/2-inch thick
3 cups whipping cream
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups chopped white chocolate
2 large eggs
8 large egg yolks

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly spray the bottom of a 4-by-8-inch baking dish and place a layer of bread slices.

2. In a saucepan, scald the cream with the milk. Add the sugar and white chocolate. Remove from heat and stir until smooth.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the yolks. Gradually whisk in the white chocolate mixture until blended. Pour half the mixture over the bread and let it stand until absorbed. Cover with another layer of bread and pour the remaining mixture on top, making sure each slice is thoroughly soaked.

4. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the center of the pudding puffs up. Uncover and bake 5 more minutes. Let cool until set, about 15 minutes. Scoop the bread pudding into bowls with an ice cream scoop or serve in squares, topped with warm White-Chocolate Sauce.

White Chocolate Sauce

1 cup whipping cream
1 cup chopped white chocolate

Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Whisk in the whipping cream until smooth. Serve warm.