You can use any kind of white bread for this recipe. Just know that each bread absorbs a different amount of custard. Be prepared to make a little extra custard. I leave the crust on unless it's very thick (like on a baguette). You can add chocolate chunks (any size) to this recipe by pressing them into the moistened bread right before baking. If you like a lot of surface area that's crunchy then bake it in an 8"x12" pan. If you like it dense, moist and custardy then bake it in a smaller (but deeper) loaf pan.

serves 6-8

-butter for greasing baking dish

-10-12 slices of white sandwich bread or brioche, sliced about 1/2" thick (if the bread isn't stale you can lightly toasted it in the oven on both sides until it's dry)

-7 eggs

-6 cups whole milk (or substitute a cup or two with heavy cream for richer pudding)

-3/4 teaspoon salt

-1/2 cup sugar

-3 teaspoons vanilla extract

-1 vanilla bean, sliced in half and seeds scraped out

-2 tablespoons orange juice

-1/2 teaspoon orange zest.

-3 tablespoons turbinado sugar, to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease your baking dish with butter. 

You can tear the bread or cut it into nice square cubes (it will end up looking pretty much the same either way). Spread bread in baking pan.

Whisk together the eggs and milk. Strain the mixture into a large pitcher. Add salt, sugar, vanilla extract, vanilla bean, orange juice and orange zest. Mix well. Pour custard over the bread and let it sit for a few minutes. It's okay to have a few corners of bread peeking up above the custard (they will brown nicely). If the bread soaks up all the custard you'll want to make and add some more (2 cups milk + 1 egg + 2 tablespoons sugar +1 teaspoon vanilla + pinch of salt). 

Sprinkle turbinado sugar over the top in an even layer. Cover with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed and the top is golden brown. If it's not nicely browned you can put it under the broiler for a few minutes (keep an eye on it the whole time). 

Serve right out of the oven if you can. Top with vanilla ice cream and some sort of sweet sauce (caramel, chocolate, maple syrup, and honey work well). You can also serve it warm or room temperature. I don't recommend serving it cold.