Chocolate bread pudding

  (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

1. Set the bread cubes on a large baking sheet overnight to dry out. Alternatively, toast them in a 200-degree oven for 30 minutes, then cool to room temperature.

2. Melt the chocolate in a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is melted, remove from heat and set aside.

3. In a large saucepan, whisk together the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla bean (scraped seeds and pod). Bring the mixture to a strong simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and discard the vanilla pod.

4. Whisk the eggyolks in a large bowl. Slowly add the hot cream mixture to the yolks, whisking, to temper the yolks and form a custard base. After the cream mixture is fully incorporated, whisk in the melted chocolate.

5. Toss the breadcubes with the custard base to fully coat. Set the mixture aside for 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes or so, to allow the cubes to soak in the custard. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees.

6. Grease a large (9-inch by 5-inch) loaf pan with butter. Gently press the bread and custard mixture into the pan. You might have a little custard or bread or both that will not fit into the loaf pan; discard any leftovers. Loosely cover the pan with foil (butter the underside of the foil so the bread mixture does not stick to it).

7. Place the loaf pan in a larger baking pan, and fill baking pan with hot water to cover the sides of the loaf pan by two-thirds.

8. Place the bakingpan in the oven and bake until the custard is set, about 45 minutes. Serve the bread pudding warm, or cool and reheat before serving. The restaurant cools and slices the bread pudding, then rewarms the slices before serving.

9. Serve the pudding with whipped cream and a sprig of mint.

Each of 8 servings: 877 calories; 11 grams protein; 80 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 59 grams fat; 34 grams saturated fat; 470 mg. cholesterol; 116 mg. sodium.