Because so many bread puddings can get mushy, I like Gaston Lenôtre’s version the best. Not only is it classic Lenôtre — simple and light yet elegant — it delivers a range of textures from crispy to tender to soft. You’ll need:
6-7 ounces sliced sandwich bread, crusts removed and cut into triangles
about two ounces butter (salted or unsalted)
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
seeds of one vanilla bean
Set your oven to broil while you prepare the bread. Once it’s cut, butter it lightly. Lay the triangles out on a sheet pan and place the pan under the broiler until the bread is lightly toasted on one side. When the toast has cooled, arrange the slices in a medium oval or rectangular baking dish. Set the dish aside while you prepare the custard.
Turn the oven on to 425 and set a pot or large tea kettle of water on to boil. Combine the eggs, yolks and the sugar in a large bowl and whip until pale yellow and frothy. Combine the milk and the vanilla seeds in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking all the while.
Holding the bread down with a large spatula, gently pour the custard into the dish. Place the dish in a larger pan — like a roasting pan — and carefully pour in enough boiling water so it comes half way up the side of the baking dish. Put the whole works in the oven on a middle rack and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm or cold, it will keep in the refrigerator for several days, though will start to lose its crunch after a day or so.