Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut the crusts off the bread and cut into 1-inch cubes. You should have about 3 1/2 cups of cubes. Arrange on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure they do not brown too much; set aside to cool. Leave the oven on.
In a saucepan, heat the half-and-half, cream, salt, and vanilla bean over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn't burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. When the cream mixture reaches a fast simmer (do not let it boil), turn off the heat. Set aside to infuse 10 minutes. Add the chopped chocolate and whisk until it melts completely.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together. Whisking constantly, gradually add the hot cream mixture. Strain into a large bowl to smooth the mixture and remove the vanilla bean. Add the bread cubes and dried cherries, toss well, and let soak until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Fold the mixture occasionally to ensure even soaking.
Divide the soaked bread among 6 ungreased individual baking dishes or 1 large baking dish. Arrange the puddings in a hot water bath. Bake until set and browning on top, about 30 minutes for individual puddings and 40 to 45 minutes for 1 large pudding. Serve warm or chilled, dusted with confectioners' sugar and with the White Chocolate Sherbet.
White Chocolate Sherbet: Place all the ingredients in a bowl over hot water and whisk to melt the chocolate and until smooth. Strain, then chill. Spin according to ice cream maker's instructions.
Recipe courtesy of Gale Gand