2 tablespoons rum (brandy or whisky are good substitutes)
1/2 cup raisins
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 slices of white or honey-wheat bread
3 1/3 cups milk
3 1/3 cups heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 raw vanilla beans, cut lengthwise
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 teaspoon water
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (optional)
Place raisins in a small bowl, and sprinkle with rum. Allow raisins to sit for at least 15 minutes to soak up the rum flavoring; drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the bottom of a 13″ x 2″ baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter.
Butter one side of each slice of the bread using the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Arrange the sliced bread in the baking dish, in a single layer, with the buttered sides facing up.
Sprinkle raisins evenly over the bread. Reserve a handful of raisins for the topping.
Combine the milk, heavy cream and sea salt in a large saucepan. Use a sharp knife to scrape vanilla bean seeds from both vanilla pieces into the saucepan.
Bring the milk mixture to a boil over medium heat. Remove pan from heat, and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar for 1 minute.
Temper the egg mixture by adding just a little bit of the hot milk at a time, whisking thoroughly to avoid cooking the eggs, until completely combined.
Pour the egg custard mixture evenly over the bread slices, using a spatula to gently push down on the bread slices, until they are completely covered with the custard.
Put the baking dish into a large roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with enough warm water to reach halfway up the baking dish’s sides.
Bake the dish for 20 minutes. Press the bread down again using a spatula, and then continue baking for 30 minutes, or until the bread pudding appears puffed with a jiggling center.
Place the roasting pan with the baking dish inside on a cooling rack. Cool the pudding slightly.
Brush warm jam on top of puffed bread slices. Toss the remaining raisins on the top, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar if desired, and serve immediately.