16 ounce loaf soft Italian bread (no hard crusts)
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup white wine or vermouth, plus 2 tablespoons [may substitute cooking wine]
8 ounces brie
1 tablespoon salt
generous grinds of black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped marjoram or thyme
4 cups milk
1. Cut the bread into rough, bite-sized cubes and spread out on a baking sheet or tray. Leave to dry for a few hours (but not until crisp or hard).
2. Meanwhile, slice the white and palest green parts of the leeks in half, then into thin half-moons. Place in a colander and rinse very well under cold running water. Melt the butter in a sauce pan with a lid, shake most of the water off the leeks and add them to the pan. Stir to coat, then add 1/4 cup wine, cooking wine, or vermouth and 1/4 cup water. Stir well, cover the pan and cook the leeks, stirring frequently, until they are wilted and soft, about 20 minutes. Make sure the leeks don’t brown – you can add a bit more water if needed. When the leeks are soft and jammy, leave them to cool.
3. Trim the rind off the brie, removing as much of the white rind as possible without sacrificing too much cheese. I find a long serrated knife works best, and the cheese needs to be very cold and firm. Cut the brie into small pieces. Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Spread the bread in the dish. Spread the leeks out over the bread, tucking them in between the cubes and distributing them evenly. Distribute the brie pieces throughout the bread and leeks, tucking them down between the cubes of bread and leeks.
4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly. Add the salt, pepper, the remaining 2 tablespoons wine, [or cooking wine], or vermouth, mustard, and herbs, and whisk well. Add the milk and whisk until completely blended. Pour the milk mixture over the bread cubes slowly, making sure it is evenly covering the bread cubes. Push them down under the liquid if needed. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate eight hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Take the dish out of the fridge to take the chill off while the oven is heating. Cook the bread pudding, covered, for 50 minutes to an hour until it is set and puffed up.