Heat a kettle of water. Position an oven rack on the middle rung and heat the oven to 350°F. With the softened butter, grease a 2-1/2-quart ceramic baking dish or casserole that’s 3 inches deep. Dust the inside with 2 Tbs. of the granulated sugar. Tap out and discard the excess.
Trim the ends off the bread and cut the rest into 1/2- to 2/3-inch slices. Cut the slices in half from top to bottom and arrange them in the prepared dish in overlapping rows or circles, stopping when the dish is full. Scatter the dried cranberries over the bread.
Combine the milk and cream in a heavy-based 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring just to a boil and remove from the heat. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk in the eggs and yolks. Blend in the pumpkin and vanilla. Wrap a damp kitchen towel around the base of the bowl to hold it steady. Whisking constantly, gradually pour the hot milk-cream mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Pour the warm custard over the bread in the baking dish, making sure to soak each piece of bread completely. Gently press down on the bread to even the top of the pudding and to ensure that each slice is saturated.
Sprinkle the pudding with the remaining 2 Tbs. granulated sugar. Set the baking dish into a larger pan (a roasting pan is good). Set the pan on the oven rack and add enough hot water from the kettle to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until the top is light golden and crusty and the pudding feels firm, 45 to 60 minutes. Let the pudding cool in its water bath on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature in shallow bowls with generous dollops of crème fraîche, if using.
Make Ahead Tips
The custard for the bread pudding can be made up to a day ahead and cooled, covered, and chilled. Bring the custard back to room temperature before-using it.
Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for up to three days; warm in a 325°F oven before serving, if you like.
nutrition information (per serving):
based on eight servings without garnish;
sat fat g
Photo: Scott Phillips