How often do you buy bread and not get a chance to use it before it goes stale? I don't know about you, but this happens to me all the time. That doesn't mean I toss the bread out though. Stale bread has all kinds of good uses - like bread crumbs, croutons, and my favorite - bread pudding.
At the restaurant I worked back in Connecticut, bread pudding was on the dessert menu every day and the variety was always changing. It's an economical dish using household staples of bread, milk and eggs. And its flavored with almost anything. Chocolate, raisins, nuts, dried or fresh fruit are all options. Really, anything goes with bread pudding. Even the type of bread doesn't particularly matter. Chances are you could make this right now with what you already have.
When done right, bread pudding should have the perfect balance of gooey goodness and chewy texture. That's why stale bread is key, but not absolutely vital. If your bread is not stale you could leave it out on the counter for a good 24 hours. But if you don't feel like waiting, a slight toasting in the oven will do the job. The bread needs this degree of crunch otherwise you'll be serving mush pudding.
I find that the amount of liquid needed can vary depending on the degree of staleness of the bread and the type of bread used. Some absorb a ton of liquid and others do not. That's why I say to use a bit more half and half then you might actually need. If you have leftover, keep it cold and pour over the warm bread pudding when ready to eat. You could use all milk or all cream, or a nondairy option just as well.
For this bread pudding, I brewed a strong, flavorful chai tea, like that from local business, Taking Root, directly in half and half. You can find herbal teas, salves and tinctures from Taking Root locally at the Rutland farmers market and on our online market, Farm Fresh Connect. Both markets carry an excellent selection of breads, eggs, sweeteners and creative foods to mix into any bread pudding.
Raisins, almonds and plenty of vanilla complement the chai flavor nicely here. And what's great about it is that you could serve this for breakfast or dessert.
Be sure to grease the baking dish well, otherwise it will crisp up and stick. Then mix everything together and you're ready to go.