Adapted from Mark Bittman's Maple Bread Pudding recipe in his cookbook, The Minimalist Entertains, page 250. Makes 8 servings
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. With a little butter, grease a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish or other 3-1/2 quart baking dish.
2. Cut Challah into 1-1/2-inch cubes. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven and flip bread. Bake for another 5 minutes. Bread should be lightly browned on all sides. Add bread to baking dish and let cool to room temperature.
3. In large mixing bowl, whisk together half-and-half, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla seeds and salt until well blended. Pour mixture over bread. Using a spatula, lightly press bread into liquid. Let sit for about 15 minutes to allow bread to soak up the liquid.
4. Sprinkle toasted almonds over soaked bread and toss carefully to mix. Dot top with butter then sprinkle with untoasted almonds.
5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until top is brown and crusty. Halfway through the baking cycle, rotate pan and drizzle top with maple syrup or honey. If the honey is too thick to drizzle, heat for 15 to 30 seconds in the microwave.
6. Remove from oven. Pudding puffs up during baking and deflates as it cools. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers.