Ten years ago, my family moved to the southeastern English countryside. We bought a feng-shui challenged barn renovation on a long country lane with distant views to the Isle of Wight. Our nearest neighbors, Siobhan and Craig, lived half a mile away. Goodness knows what we were thinking when we bought the place. It would have been an extremely isolating experience save for our nearest neighbors who took us under their wing. We became good friends over many meals which we took turns preparing on our AGAs. (No provincial UK home is complete without an AGA.) One of the first meals Siobhan made for us ended with a chocolate bread pudding. Never a fan, I was dubious at first, but with one bite I was hooked. Crunchy on top, squidgy in the middle and blanketed with double cream, this was dense, rich and nothing like what I expected. Since then I have dabbled with iterations of Siobhan's dessert, taking further inspiration from Delia Smith (Britain's Ina Garten) and tweaking with raisins, rum and cinnamon to suit my taste. —TasteFood
Combine raisins and 2 tablespoons rum in a small bowl. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes.
Lightly butter a 9" square baking pan. Cut bread slices in half on the diagonal and set aside.
Combine all the remaining ingredients, except the eggs, in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (do not let bowl touch water.) Stir occasionally until chocolate and butter melt and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir to completely combine ingredients.
Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add chocolate and mix well to combine.
Pour enough chocolate into the baking pan to leave a 1/4" coating on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle half the raisins over the chocolate. Arrange half the bread slices over the raisins, lightly overlapping the slices in a scalloped pattern. Pour half the remaining chocolate over the bread. Sprinkle remaining raisins over chocolate. Top with remaining bread slices, overlapping. Pour remaining chocolate over the top of the pudding, thoroughly covering bread. Gently press bread down into chocolate. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate 24 hours.
Remove pudding from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake until the top is crunchy and the inside is very soft, 40-45 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve with rum sauce.
While the pudding is baking, make the rum sauce: Stir cornstarch and water together in a small bowl. Bring cream to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cornstarch to cream, whisking constantly, and simmer until cream begins to thicken. Stir in sugar, rum and cinnamon. Remove from heat. Cool.