Pumpkin Bread Pudding

This is, hands down, my all-time favorite dessert. I suppose most people consider anything with pumpkin in it to be a Fall dish, but why wait? If you have a can of pumpkin in your pantry, left over from last Thanksgiving, this is a great excuse to rinse off the dust and open it up.

6 c. French bread cubes, toasted (I use the unseasoned stuffing cubes you can buy at the day-old bread store)
2 c. Half & Half or evaporated milk
1 1/2 c sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1/2 c raisins
1/2 c chopped toasted pecans
3 T. butter, melted
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (OR 1/2 tsp each of ginger, nutmeg, and allspice, with 1 tsp cinnamon & 1/4 tsp cloves)
1 tsp grated orange rind (zest)

Lightly butter an 11 x 7 baking dish, and put the bread cubes in it. Pour the Half & Half over the cubes, and stir to moisten. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl, and gently fold into the bread cubes. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes, or until set (the top will no longer be shiny). Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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