1/2 cup dried cherries
2 tablespoons cognac or brandy
Chocolate brioche puddings:
6 small brioche
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided
2 tablespoons Chambord liqueur or cherry flavored brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Chambord crème anglaise
4 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean split
1 tablespoon Chambord liqueur or cherry flavored brandy
Soak the dried cherries:
1. In a small bowl combine the dried cherries and cognac. Set aside and let soak for 1 hour.
Make the chocolate brioche pudding:
2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of six 6-ounce ramekins.
3. Using a serrated knife, cut the brioche into 1/4-inch slices. Spread the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and crisp. Cool the brioche on the baking sheet on a wire rack.
4. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring 1/4 cup of the cream to a gentle boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Gently whisk until smooth. Stir in the Chambord and vanilla.
5. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup cream, eggs, sugar and the chocolate mixture.
Assemble the puddings:
6. Dip pieces of the toasted brioche into the batter and place in the bottoms of the prepared ramekins. Spoon some of the cherries over the brioche pieces in the ramekins. Repeat layering the dipped brioche pieces and dried cherries until the ramekins are filled.
7. Spoon the remaining chocolate/egg mixture over the brioche pieces in the ramekins. (Remove a few pieces of the brioche if you are unable to fit all of the batter into the cups.)
Bake the puddings:
8. Put the ramekins in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and place it on the center rack of the oven. Pour boiling water into the baking pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake the puddings for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. While the puddings are baking, prepare the Chambord crème anglaise.
Make the Chambord crème anglaise:
9. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk until pale.
10. In a heavy, medium stainless steel saucepan, bring the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla bean to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and remove the vanilla bean. Gradually whisk 1 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks until blended. Return this mixture to the saucepan. Continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the custard has thickened slightly. It is done when you can run your finger down the back of the custard-coated spoon and a path remains in the custard for several seconds. Do not let the custard come to a boil.
11. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately strain the hot custard into a stainless steel bowl. Add the Chambord and stir to combine.
Assemble the desserts:
12. Remove the puddings from the pan of water. One at a time, carefully invert the warm cakes onto large dessert plates. Spoon some of the Chambord creme anglaise around the base of each cake. Serve immediately.