Chocolate and apricot create a perfect flavor pairing in this sweet bread pudding
1 loaf (1 lb.) firm, crusty French bread (4 to 4 1/2 in. wide)
4 to 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into 1/2 to 2-in. pieces
1/3 cup quartered dried apricots
3 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur or orange juice
How to Make It
Trim crusts off bread. Cut loaf crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange 8 to 10 slices diagonally in a buttered 8-inch square pan, overlapping to fit. If needed, lean the slices over so they don't extend above sides of pan. If bread is too wide, trim it. Tuck chocolate and dried apricots between bread slices, scattering some chocolate and apricots over the top.
In a bowl, whisk eggs, half-and-half, sugar, vanilla, and orange liqueur until well blended. Slowly pour liquid over bread. Let stand until bread feels soft all over and most of the liquid is absorbed, 30 to 40 minutes; occasionally tip pan and spoon liquid over the top.
Bake in a 350° oven until custard no longer flows in center when pan is gently tilted, about 30 minutes.
If pudding is pale, broil 3 to 4 inches from heat until golden and crusty, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve warm or cool.