Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toast bread lightly (it can be tossed on the oven rack as the oven preheats, for about 10 minutes, turning once or it can be toasted in a toaster.)
Place a pan of water on to boil for a water bath and make sure to have a larger container for your casserole to fit in.
Scald milk in a pan on the stove or heat in the microwave. If using the microwave use a large container.
Let bread cool, then spread with soft butter, sprinkle with brown sugar and pat it on, then sprinkle with cinnamon. This is best done with the pieces lined up together tightly on the countertop. Cut each slice into two to three pieces if desired, and place attractively in a buttered casserole, about 1/2 quart size. Reserve any excess brown sugar that might fall off of the toast. Sprinkle with raisins between the layers, if using.
Mix eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Slowly stir in a little of the hot, scalded milk, whisking constantly, then add all back to the hot milk, still whisking. Pour slowly over the bread in the casserole. You can press down once or twice on the bread, gently, but it is normal for the bread to float to the top. Sprinkle the remainder of the brown sugar over top.
Place casserole dish into a larger pan, carefully add boiling water to the depth halfway up the casserole and place in oven. Bake for 65 to 70 minutes until puffed and golden brown. A knife inserted halfway between center and edge should come out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool to just warm before serving.
Nutrition: Based on 8 servings, no raisins, 2% milk: calories; Total Fat 7 g 10 %; Saturated Fat 3 g 17 %; Monounsaturated Fat 2 g; Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 93 mg 31 %; Sodium 166 mg 7 %; Potassium 183 mg 5 %; Total Carbohydrate 37 g 12 %; Dietary Fiber 0 g 1 %; Sugars 30 g; Protein 6 g 12 %; Vitamin A 6 %; Vitamin C 0 %; Calcium 13 %; Iron 6 %
Keywords: Bread, bread pudding, Desserts, Eggs, Family Recipe, Irish, leftover bread, milk, Pudding