For this pudding to have the right texture when cooked you need to use the type of bread that will go stale after a day, such as a good rustic white loaf or baguette. Sliced white commercially produced bread lacks the body required to make a good bread and butter pudding.
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) day-old crusty bread
75 g (2 3/4 oz) butter, softened
115 g (4 oz/ 1/3 cup) sweet orange marmalade
120 g (4 1/4 oz/ 2/3 cup) raisins (optional)
4 eggs, whisked
110 g (3 3/4 oz/1/2 cup) sugar, plus 2 1/2 tablespoons, for sprinkling
435 ml (15 1/4 fl oz/1 3/4 cups) milk
435 ml (15 1/4 fl oz/1 3/4 cups) pouring (whipping) cream
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
Whipped cream or pouring custard , to serve
1. Cut the bread into 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick slices and trim the crusts. Spread half the slices on one side with butter (you will have some butter left over) and then the marmalade, then place the remaining bread slices on the top to make sandwiches. Cut each sandwich into quarters.
2. Use some of the remaining butter to grease a 2 litre (70 fl oz/8 cup) ovenproof dish. Place half of the 'sandwiches' over the base of the dish, trimming as necessary to cover any gaps and form a neat layer. Scatter over half the raisins, if using.
3. Use a balloon whisk to whisk together the eggs, sugar, milk, cream and vanilla until well combined. Ladle half the milk mixture over the bread in the dish. Place the remaining sandwiches over the top, unevenly and at angles. Scatter over the remaining raisins. Ladle the remaining milk mixture evenly over the top, trying to moisten as much of the bread as possible. Set the pudding aside for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb as much of the milk mixture as possible.
4. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F/Gas 3).
5. Dot the remaining butter over the top of the pudding and sprinkle with the extra sugar. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or until deep golden and the custard is set in the middle. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or custard.