5 cups whole milk (or a blend of milk and cream, if you’re feeling extra decadent)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt…Optional Bread Pudding Ingredients: 1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruit, 1/2 cup toasted nuts, 1 chopped apple or other fresh fruit
Optional Flavoring Ingredients: zest of one lemon, zest of one orange, 1/4 cup rum or grand marnier
Optional Toppings: 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, streusel topping
9×13 (or other 3-quart) baking dish
1. Butter the inside of your baking dish and arrange the bread pieces inside. If you’re using raisins, nuts, fruit, or any other pudding ingredients, sprinkle them over the bread so they are evenly distributed.
2. Whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and any extra flavoring ingredients you’re using.
3. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the pudding, making sure it gets into all the nooks and crannies. Cover the casserole and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight to fully absorb the custard.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 325° with a rack in the middle of the oven. Set the pudding on the counter while the oven is pre-heating to take some of the chill off.
5. Sprinkle any toppings over the pudding and bake uncovered for 45 – 55 minutes. The pudding is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the tips are starting to toast.
6. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to a week.