9-10 slices firm white bread, preferably Pepperidge Farm or Arnold sandwich loaf
Unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light raisins
2 lbs. freestone peaches (6-7 medium size)
1/2 cup apricot preserves
4 large eggs
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 cup whipping cream
3 tblsps. rum
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
To be used just before baking: Additional 1/3 cup whipping cream and 1/3 cup granulated sugar.
Butter a 11x8" baking dish and set aside. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Stack 3 or 4 slices of amount of bread at a time and cut thru the stack into three fingers. Place the fingers, buttered side up and touching one another, to cover the bottom of the baking dish. Use about half of the total amount of bread. Sprinkle the raisins over the bread. Peel, cut peaches in halves and remove pits. Cut each half into about 4 slices. Place the peaches, overlapping in rows, to cover bread and raisins. Stir the apricot preserves to soften in a small bowl and then drizzle over the peaches. Cover with the remaining bread slices, buttered side up.
In a bowl beat the eggs just to mix. Add the brown sugar, salt, milk, cream, rum, and the vanilla and almond extracts, beating after each addition. With a ladle, gradually ladle the mixture over the bread.
Cover the bread with plastic wrap or wax paper. Gently press down on paper to encourage bread to absorb milk mixture. Gradually, as the bread absorbs the liquid, more pressure can be applied. The pudding can wait this way at room temperature for an hour or two or in the refrigerator for several hours.
Before baking, adjust rack to middle of oven and preheat oven to 325º. Remove plastic wrap or wax paper from dish.
Drizzle the 1/3 cup whipping cream over the bread (it will not become absorbed and it will not be a smooth layer, leave it as is) and sprinkle the granulated sugar over top (which will become crisp and crunchy).
Place the baking dish in a wide, shallow baking pan. Put pans in oven and pour hot water about 1 inch deep in baking pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10-15 minutes until a knife inserted in middle of dish comes out clean. If top is pale, place under broiler briefly, watching closely. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.