8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups tightly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
3 1/2 cups half and half
5 lg. eggs
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
9 cups day old country bread, cubed
½ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 cup dried cherries
Butter and flour for the pan
Prepare a 13- by 9-inch glass baking dish by greasing it with butter and a light coating of flour.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, half and half, eggs, and vanilla extract. Fold in bread cubes until fully coated and bread has absorbed most of the liquid mixture. Fold in cherries.
Spoon bread pudding into the prepared baking dish. Place chocolate pieces evenly throughout the pudding. Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
Turn oven to 350°F. Place pan in oven as it is heating up.
Bake for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until bread pudding is golden brown approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
Yields 2 cups
2 cups whole milk
2 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste
6 Tbsp. granulated sugar
6 lg. egg yolks
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tablespoons Gran Marnier
In a non-reactive saucepan, combine vanilla bean paste, sugar, salt, and milk and heat together until milk is just under boiling point.
In a separate bowl, combine together the egg yolks. Liaison the hot milk mixture into the eggs while whisking constantly. Once eggs have slowly heated in temperature to prevent curdling, marry the two liquids and return combined mixture to pan and stove top.
Heat liquid slowly over a medium heat being cautious not to create curdling on the bottom of saucepan and allow mixture to reduce to a thick cream. Add liquor.
Strain through a chinois if necessary. Serve with bread pudding.