Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square-baking pan.
To make the bread pudding, combine the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs until smooth, then work in the heavy cream. Add the vanilla, then the bread cubes. Allow the bread to soak up the custard. Scatter the raisins in the greased pan, and top with the egg mixture, which will prevent the raisins from burning. Bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until the pudding has a golden brown color and is firm to the touch. If a toothpick inserted in the pudding comes out clean, it is done. It should be moist, not runny or dry. Let cool to room temperature.
To make the sauce, bring the cream to a boil, combine the cornstarch and water, and add the mixture to the boiling cream, stirring constantly. Return to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the mixture. Add the sugar and bourbon, and stir. Let cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and butter 6 (6-ounce) ceramic ramekins.
To make the meringue, be certain that you use a bowl and whisk that are clean and that the egg whites are completely free of yolk. This dish needs a good, stiff meringue, and the eggs whites will whip better if the chill is off them. In a large bowl or mixer, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, and continue whipping until shiny and thick. Test with a clean spoon. If the whites stand up stiff, like shaving cream, when you pull out the spoon, the meringue is ready. Do not overwhip, or the whites will break down and the souffle will not work.
In a large bowl, break half the bread pudding into pieces using your hands or a spoon. Gently fold in a quarter of the meringue, being careful not to lose the air in the whites. Place a portion of this mixture in each of the ramekins.
Place the remaining bread pudding in a bowl, break into pieces, and carefully fold in the rest of the meringue. Top off the souffles with this lighter mixture, to about 1 1/2 inches over the top edge of the ramekin. With a spoon, smooth and shape the tops into a dome over the ramekin rim.
Bake immediately for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately. Using a spoon at the table, poke a hole in the top of each souffle and spoon the room-temperature whiskey sauce into the souffle.
New Orleans French bread is very light and tender. Outside of New Orleans, use only a light bread. If the bread is too dense, the recipe won't work. We suggest Italian bread as the most comparable.
Recipe courtesy Ti Martin and Jamie Shannon, From Commander's Kitchen, Broadway Books 2000.
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