Chocolate Bread Pudding

ChocolateI have never met a bread pudding I didn’t like. In the interest of keeping this version simple, I used bottled chocolate milk and packaged bread when I first stated to test it. The bread worked out fine, but none of the milks was chocolatey enough. Switching gears, I resorted to ganache. A pillar of classical French baking composed of melted chocolate and cream; it is usually employed as the base of truffles, cake frosting, and anything else that requires the essence of chocolate. For this recipe I lightened up the ganache a bit by replacing the cream with milk, but it still makes my bread pudding as deeply chocolatey as I wanted it to be.

Makes 6 servings
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total preparation time 70 minutes

3 cups milk
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
One 13- to 14-inch loaf soft crust supermarket Italian bread, cut into small cubes
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt
Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream, optional

Heat 1 cup milk in a small saucepan over low heat until bubbles begin to form at the edge. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes or until the chocolate has melted, stir to combine.

Arrange the bread cubes in a buttered 9- by 13-inch glass baking dish. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until frothy; whisk in the remaining 2 cups milk, the sugar, vanilla, and salt until combined; stir in the chocolate mixture. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture; pour the rest evenly over the bread. Set aside, covered, for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Uncover the baking dish and pour the reserved chocolate mixture evenly over the bread. Bake in the center of the oven until the bread has puffed and is set throughout, about 20 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.
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