Mind-spinning, completely insane indulgence.

This recipe, graciously contributed by Sandy Teich, is based on the classic from the late Chez Hélène in New Orleans, and "people pass out when they eat it." Sandy serves it with both heavy pouring cream and barely sweetened whipped cream ("Hey, if you're gonna die from eating it, might as well go all the way.")

Until now, only three people besides Sandy had this coveted recipe; it was jealously guarded for years. Now I have it. And now you have it. Indulge thyself.

Grease a 2-quart deep (3") ceramic or glass baking dish. Preheat oven to 325°F.

Beat eggs, sugar and salt until combined; add half and half, vanilla and brandy. Add bread cubes and mix thoroughly. Add 3 cups chocolate (or chips). The bread should sort of float in the custard; if it seems dryish, add more half-and-half. Allow to soak in refrigerator for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

Pour mixture into buttered baking dish and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, scatter remaining cup chopped chocolate over top and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sanding or crystal sugar. Return to oven and bake another 15 to 20 minutes or until barely set in the middle, puffed around the edges and golden brown. Serve warm with heavy pouring cream and/or whipped cream.

Serves 10 to 12.

Sandy's notes: Many people have tried to get this recipe, but I usually don't give it out. It's a complete no-brainer, but so good and always sold out immediately whenever I made it as a restaurant dessert special. Idiot waiters used to fight over the scraps -- ha! I only make this about 2 times a year, and believe me, that's enough. It's incredibly rich. And I'll tell you a secret: it's great cold from the fridge, too.


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Chuck Taggart   email chuck (at) gumbopages (dot) com