Combine coarsely chopped bittersweet and baking chocolate for the custard mixture. (Fotolia / February 12, 2014)

In my last column, I shared with you a delightful holiday recipe that called for you to seek out a special ingredient, North African brik pastry, with which to make my Valentine chocolate "purses," a treat straight out of Spago restaurant. But I also know that some people lead very busy lives and may not have had the time to hunt for ethnic ingredients or to plan ahead. And, suddenly, the most romantic holiday of the year is just a couple of days away!

That's why this week I'd like to suggest yet another wonderful dessert you can prepare for your Valentine. Better still, this time it's a home-style recipe: bread pudding made with a rich bittersweet-chocolate custard, featuring basic ingredients you can find in any supermarket, or that you may already have in your home refrigerator and pantry.

I'd have to rack my brain to think of anyone I know who doesn't like a good bread pudding. It seems to be a perfect definition of comfort food: slices of good bread soaked in and baked with a rich, sweet custard to form a dessert that delivers smooth satisfaction with every spoonful. Adding a generous dose of chocolate makes it even better -- and suits it perfectly to a Valentine's Day celebration.

As I said, the ingredients couldn't be more basic: half-and-half; eggs; some good-quality bittersweet chocolate, bitter baking chocolate and cocoa powder, plus an egg-enriched loaf of bread like brioche or challah. While my recipe is easy, I do suggest that you prepare its custard base the day before you plan to serve it -- or at least the morning before you'll do the final assembly and cooking. That will allow plenty of time for the mixture to chill well and thicken. Then, the next day, all you have to do is cut and soak the bread, assemble the pudding in individual-sized baking cups, and cook the dessert in the oven using a hot-water bath (easy to set up with a baking pan and some boiling water) that helps the custard cook gently and stay moist and delicate.

The puddings taste delicious whether you serve them hot from the oven, warm, or chilled in the refrigerator, which really works to your advantage if you're making this dessert for your Valentine. That's because the recipe works most efficiently if you make enough for eight servings, as you might want to do for a dinner party. But if it's for just the two of you, you have not only seconds if you want them, but also more wonderful chocolate bread pudding to share the next day.

Happy Valentine's Day!


Makes 8 servings, 3/4 cup each


6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1- 1/2 ounces bitter chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 whole large cage-free eggs

3 large cage-free egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups half-and-half


1-1/2 cups half-and-half

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder