Step 1Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch-square pan or baking dish.
Step 2Trim the crusts from the bread and discard. Butter each slice liberally on both sides. Set aside.
Step 3Place the milk in a saucepan and heat it until it is warm. Pour it into a mixing bowl and add the eggs, salt and vanilla. Using a rotary beater, whisk or fork, beat briskly until the mixture is all blended and one color.
Step 4Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the baking pan. Tear the slices of bread into small pieces and distribute over the sugar, then add the warmed milk mixture. Sprinkle the nutmeg over the top.
Step 5Bake the pudding until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes, but start checking the pudding at 30 minutes. Cut the pudding into pieces and serve warm, with the liquid from the pan spooned over the top. Serve with half-and-half, if desired.