(1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for the baking dish
pure vanilla extract
challah bread or brioche, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 10 cups)
fresh orange juice
dried apricots, cut into quarters
- Butter a 9-by-13-inch or some other large, shallow baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, 1 cup of the sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt.
- Heat oven to 350° F. Place the bread in the prepared dish and pour in the egg mixture, pressing the bread down to submerge it. Let sit for 30 minutes, pressing down on the bread occasionally.
- Sprinkle the bread with ¼ cup of the remaining sugar and dot with the butter. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until set and golden, 55 to 65 minutes (tent with foil if the pudding browns too quickly).
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, apricots, raisins, cherries, and the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the liquid is slightly thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the brandy (if using). Serve the compote with the bread pudding.