“I could feel your energy, it’s very strong. I could tell by looking in your eyes, you are a very old wise soul.” These were the first words I heard as we entered into the gates of Christiania, Copenhagen. Now mind you, this wasn’t a fortune teller expressing these words to me, it was simply a woman passing me by. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Christiania, I had heard all these magical wonderful stories of how it was a real life version of Pinocchio’s “Pleasure Island”. I had heard how creative people had taken over this piece of land in Denmark, and gave it to the poor, along with Greenlanders, and talented musicians. It was now a place where progressive thinking thrived, and anyone who craved a liberated lifestyle could come to this great commune and feel at home. It was August of 2002, and I was on tour with my aunt Hope, singing backing vocals and playing keyboards as part of The Warm Inventions (Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions). We had a few days off and the band decided Copenhagen would be a grand place to pass our free time. Within two hours of arriving and parking our tour bus, a plan was mapped out, taxi cabs were called, and we were on our way to Christiania. En route there, Hope continued to school me on all the in’s and out’s of Christiania…telling me that it was a place where cannabis, hash, and hallucinogenic mushrooms were sold freely, and if you didn’t have enough money they would also be willing to barter with the individual. Even though this was not an activity we would take part in, it is an important piece of information one needs to know in order to get a full understanding of the place. She went on to tell me that many chefs had opened five star restaurants in the commune and were generating a lot of traffic to the area. No one was allowed to take photographs anywhere on site, and police cars were forbidden from entering along with taxi cabs, therefore we would have to be dropped off at the gate. So like I said…I didn’t know what to expect.
We finally arrive, and are dropped off at the side of a dirt road. The taxi cab driver gives us his phone number and tells us he will return to pick us up in the exact same spot, all we need to do is give him a call when we are ready. We walk through the big rod iron gate that is separating Christiania from the rest of Copenhagen, and make our way through what resembles a swap meet. Little tents stand all lined up side by side, vending beaded bracelets, glass blown pipes, and colorful cute summer dresses. The sun is just about to set when we come to a section of the commune that houses some of the best restaurants in all of Copenhagen. We chose one that was made out of big rocks. The smell of delicious-ness wafted us at the door. I remember everything was made of wood inside, the floors, high ceilings with the beams exposed, the chairs, stools and the massive long table they sat us all at. It was the most casual, laid back experience I had ever witnessed. The waitress smoked puff after puff as she took our order. There were dogs and cats lounging around, some even under our table. Yet every meal described on the menu sounded absolutely divine. It would have taken wild horses to pull me away from my plate that night. Everyone at the dinner table went silent once the food was served. There was no time for talking, the main focus was tasting and eating. All you heard was “Ummmmm”, and little sounds of pleasure under the tongue. At that point of my gastronomic journey I was in heaven, and ready to be in a food coma. There was no way I would fall short without requesting dessert, didn’t matter how full I was. I ordered the chocolate croissant bread pudding….it was out of this world. Now I could officially say I lived the magic firsthand. I wondered why this place was famous for forward thinking and not for their bread pudding?
Here is my version of the Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding I sampled many moons ago in the beautiful Danish community of Christiania.
Ingredients for Bread Pudding:
1 1/2 tablespoons of salted butter
1 1/4 – cups sugar plus 2 tablespoons
4 – eggs
1 – teaspoon cinnamon
1 – teaspoon almond extract
1 – teaspoon vanilla
3 – cups half and half
1 – cup whole milk
5 – tablespoons unsalted butter (melted and brought back to room temperature)
5 – cups moist chocolate cake (no frosting) (cut into small squares)
5 – cups stale (3 – 4 days old) croissants (cut into small squares)
2 – banana (sliced)
1 – cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 – cup chopped pecans
1/2 – cup shredded sweetened coconut
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F
In a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish, take salted butter and generously grease entire dish. Cut both chocolate cake and croissants into cubes.
Now take 2 1/2 cups of chocolate cake and 2 1/2 cups of croissants and mix together in baking dish. Now arrange neatly to make your first layer .
Next neatly lay banana slices, chocolate chips, shredded coconut and pecans.
Mix remaining croissant and chocolate cakes cubes together, then top banana, chocolate chip, pecan, coconut layer with mixed cake/croissant cubes.
Now, with a electric mixer, beat 1 1/4 cups sugar and eggs together on high for 6 minutes. Next add cinnamon, almond extract, vanilla, half and half, milk and unsalted butter, and beat for 1 minute. Carefully ladle egg/half and half mixture over prepared cake/croissant cubes.
Once all of the egg/half and half mixture is poured in, gently press down on cake/croissant cubes with both hands to make sure they are soaked in egg/half and half mixture. Then sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.
Now in a large baking dish or roasting pan (15 x 10 inches or 4 quarts) fill 1 inch deep with hot water to create a water bath, then place the 9 x 13 inch prepared bread pudding dish in the middle of the 15 x 10 water bath (you want the bath to go halfway up the side of the 9 x 13 inch dish) and place in oven for 1 hour.
As soon as the bread pudding is ready, remove from water bath and and let it cool for 15 minutes.
I enjoy serving mine warn with coconut pineapple ice cream (I use Haagen Dazs) on top, and colorful candy sugar sprinkles. I could eat bowl after bowl….