No. 9 Park's Creamy Vanilla Bread Pudding

Serves 8-10
Adapted from Stir by Barbara Lynch

3 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5-6 slices cubed white bread (we used Pepperidge Farm soft, hearty white sandwich bread)
4 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, add the cream. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with the tip of a paring knife and scrape the seeds out into the cream. As many as you can and then add the whole vanilla bean to the pot. Heat over low. Stir in the salt and cook the cream until warm to the touch. Take the saucepan off of the heat and let the vanilla bean steep for 1/2 hour to 1 hour. 

Pile the bread cubes into a 9x13 baking dish, distributing them more or less evenly. In medium bowl with an electric mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar on medium speed the mixture is light yellow in color and falls from the beater in thick ribbons, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract. Remove the vanilla bean pod from the cream mixture and reheat it over medium heat. You want the cream to be very hot but whatever you do, do NOT let it boil. Remove the cream from the heat right before boiling, and slowly pour 1 cup of it into the egg mixture while whisking constantly as you do to temper the eggs. Then pour the entire egg-cream mixture into the saucepan with the remaining cream and whisk it together.

Strain the egg and cream mixture through a fine mesh sieve over the bread cubes in the baking dish. Give the pan a gentle shake to be sure all is distributed well and them let the bread absorb the custard for at least 30 minutes before baking or overnight in the fridge. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

When ready to bake, set the bread pudding dish in a larger roasting pan. Add enough hot water until the water if halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake in the center of the oven until the custard is just firm, 50 minutes to 1 hour (begin checking earlier; give the pan a gentle shake and take it out of the oven when the custard is no longer jiggly). Let cool a bit and serve warm or room temperature. Put a serving in a large dish and top with dulce de leche sauce, whipped cream, chocolate sauce or any delicious version you like.

PS- This would be a super easy recipe to individualize by dividing the bread pudding among 8 ramekins and baking in exactly the same way.