Chocolate and cherry is a classic combination. For a real treat, if you can find Italian amarena cherries in syrup, use them here. Substitute one cup, drained, for the dried cherries. Reduce the sugar by ¼ cup since they are already quite sweet. If you’re making this when cherries are in season, pitted Bing cherries can also be used.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup milk
- 5 large eggs
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 8 cups brioche or other rich egg bread, day-old, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 cup dried cherries
- 6 tablespoons chunky cherry preserves
- ½ cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a kettle of water to a boil and keep it hot. Coat the bottom and sides of a 2-quart oval or rectangular baking dish with the butter. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar on the buttered surfaces; tilt and shake the pan so it’s sugared. Put the chocolate in a large bowl. Combine the cream and milk in a small saucepan and heat to just simmering. Pour over the chocolate and let sit 5 minutes. Stir until melted and smooth.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until thoroughly blended. Gradually whisk in the chocolate mixture, then ¾ cup sugar, the salt, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Stir the bread cubes into the custard, pushing them down so they’re all submerged, and stir in the cherries. Let the bread soak for 15 minutes.
Spoon the pudding into the baking dish, and drop teaspoonfuls of the preserves on top, distributing evenly. Finally, sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup sugar. Put the dish inside a roasting pan, and set the pan in the oven. Pour the boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake 30 minutes, then sprinkle with the almonds. Continue to bake the pudding until the top is crusty and the custard is set, about 25 to 35 minutes more. (A knife blade inserted into the custard should come out clean). Remove from the oven, and let the pudding cool in the water bath until you can safely remove it. Serve warm.