8 cups 1-inch cubes of French bread
4 cups milk
1 cup sugar
6-oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp finely shredded orange peel
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
Whipped cream for serving, optional
Cocoa powder for dusting, optional
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Butter the baking dish; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, and chocolate; cook over medium heat until chocolate melts, whisking often. Remove mixture from the heat.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, orange peel, vanilla, and salt; gradually whisk in the chocolate mixture. Pour mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish. Using a large spatula, press down lightly to moisten all the bread.
Bake at 325 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until evenly puffed and set. Cool in pan on wire rack for 30 before serving warm.
Garnish each serving with a dollop of whipped cream dusted with cocoa powder, if desired.