About seven years ago, Mark and I were are some fancy Hollywood party thrown by, I believe New Line Pictures. It was a star studded affair ("Isn't that John Waters?" Mark whispered. "Look, there's Paula Abdul!" I squealed) and the food wasn't half bad either. The real stand out was a trough of chocolate bread pudding which I hovered by for probably 45 minutes. Although I tend not to go for chocolaty desserts (they seem so obvious, so common - don't even get me started on anything using candy bars as ingredients), this one was really special. It was spongy, cutsardy, and some of the bread had nice crisp oven baked edges.
So after the party I researched chocolate bread pudding recipes and found this on Martha Stewart's website, although I made one slight alteration. Rather than use brioche like the recipe calls for, I use, get ready...CHOCHOLATE POUND CAKE! Can you stand it?
This positively EVIL dessert is fantastic warm but it's great cold as well.
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 whole vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, seeds scraped
3 cinnamon sticks (optional)
1 loaf brioche (about 1 pound, or you may substitute chocolate pound cake)
12 ounces roughly chopped Valrhona or other bittersweet chocolate, plus 1/2 ounce or 1/4 cup shavings for garnish
8 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
Heat the oven to 325°. Place the cream, milk, vanilla seeds and pod, and cinnamon sticks, if using, in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes to infuse flavors.
Cut the brioche into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut slices into quarters. Allow quarters to sit uncovered to they become a little stale. Fill a 9-by-12-inch gratin dish or a deep oval roasting dish with the quartered pieces.
Return the milk mixture to a boil, remove from heat, and discard vanilla pod and cinnamon sticks. Add chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Combine egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl, and whisk to combine. Pour chocolate mixture very slowly into egg-yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until fully combined.
Slowly pour half the chocolate custard over bread, making sure all the bread is soaked. Arrange the reserved bread on top in a decorative pattern, and press firmly so bottom layer of bread absorbs chocolate mixture. Spoon remaining custard over bread until completely covered and all cracks are filled. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the dish; press down to soak bread thoroughly. Remove plastic, wipe edges of the dish with a damp towel, and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Place gratin dish in a larger pan; fill outer pan with hot water halfway up the sides of the gratin dish. Bake until set, about 35 minutes. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.
Serve pudding warm.