Bread pudding is like an overnight French toast. You can make it the night before; on the morning you'll serve it, slide it into a hot oven. It'll come out beautifully, every time. I'm folding in apricots and almonds, but you can use anything you like–dried cherries, chocolate, nuts of all kids. The sky's the limit.
For the vanilla sauce: In a medium bowl, combine egg yolks with the sugar until the sugar dissolves. Set aside. In a large saucepan, heat heavy cream and milk. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and add it to the milk mixture. When it begins to simmer, turn down the heat and ladle a small amount into the egg/sugar mixture, whisking the entire time. Then, whisk it back into the warm milk (this will keep the eggs from scrambling). Continue cooking and whisking for about 12 minutes until it thickens.
After 12 minutes, when the sauce has thickened, and registers between 155-180 degrees F, it’s safely cooked. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.Assemble the bread pudding: In a large bowl, pour the sauce over the bread cubes and gently turn for even mixing. Set aside. Butter the baking dish; then add half of the bread/cream mixture, followed by half of the apricots and the almonds. Repeat and layer with the remaining bread, apricots, and almonds. Bake 40 minutes (at this point you can cover and refrigerate overnight).
The bread pudding is done when it’s brown and crispy on the outside and bubbling up around the edges. Garnish with more (optional) almonds and serve.