Chocolate Bread Pudding

Carmine's Restaurant Recipe

3/4 cup golden raisins
7 large eggs
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 pounds day old challa bread
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
whipped cream or ice cream (optional, for serving)

In a small bowl, cover raisins with hot water and soak them for until needed. (Alternately, microwave the raisins and water until the water boils) Drain and set aside (the raisins can soak while you make the custard).

To make the custard, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Set aside.

To make the pudding: Trim crust from bread and cut bread into 4 X 2 inch rectangles about 3/4 inch thick.  Snugly line the bottom of a covered oven safe dish with bread. Scatter a quarter of raisins and a quarter of the chocolate chips over the bread. Top with another layer of bread slices. Keep layering the pudding until there you have no more layers (generally 3 to 4 layers) and all the raisins, chocolate and bread are used. The top layer should be raisins and chocolate.

Melt the butter and mix into the custard. Gently pour the custard over the pudding so that it sinks down to the bottom and covers the top of the pudding. With the back of a spoon or spatula, press down on the bread to compact the pudding and distribute the custard.

Cover your dish (or cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and then with aluminum foil) and refrigerate at least 2 hours or for up to 12 hours. (You can also freeze pretty successfully at this stage)

When ready to bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Put a deep roasting pan, large enough to hold the dish easily, on the rack. (If you have used a loaf pan covered with foil and plastic wrap, remove the foil and plastic wrap from the bread pudding. Discard plastic wrap and replace foil over the pan.) Set the loaf pan in the roasting pan and add enough hot water to the roasting pan to come half to three quarters of the way up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake pudding about 1 1/2 hours or until a skewer poked through the foil comes out clean. (If it's not clean, return pudding to the oven and recheck every 15 minutes). Remove foil and allow to cool for 1 hour before serving.

To serve:  Invert a serving platter over the pudding and, holding the platter in place over the loaf pan, turn it upside down to release the pudding onto the platter. Immediately turn the pudding upright. Serve slices with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

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