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12 cups day-old Italian bread cubes (1/2-inch cubes)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Cherry Syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 8 cups of bread cubes in greased 13x9x2-inch baking dish. In mixing bowl, combine extract, cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar and beat until smooth. Stir in cherries and pecans. Spoon over bread. Top with remaining bread. In bowl, whisk eggs, half-and-half, cinnamon and remaining sugar. Pour over bread. Bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes or until browned. Let stand 5 minutes and top with warm Cherry Syrup before serving.

Cherry Syrup
           
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) sour cherries, undrained
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Combine all ingredients but extract in saucepan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in extract.

Serving size: 1 cup. Per serving: 792 calories, 19.5 g protein, 18.7 g fat, 134 g carbohydrates, 5.7 g fiber, 901 mg sodium, 102 mg cholesterol.

Hazel Turner, San Bernard Electric Cooperative