"This is derived from an old Welsh recipe for steamed leek pudding. After fiddling around with the ubiquitous onion, I came up with this richly flavored bread pudding (and several variations). You could, of course, steam it as in the original recipe if you have a nice pudding mold, but it's just fine baked in a souffle dish or loaf pan. It's so good it makes my toes curl. Try it with roast chicken and a spoonful of pan gravy."
Tear bread on a large, clean tea towel and spread to dry for several hours. You may speed this process by drying the crumbs on a cookie sheet in a 300 degree F oven for about 30 minutes, stirring and turning them occasionally.
Melt 4 tablespoon of the butter and add onions. Cook them over lowish heat until lightly colored, adding garlic near the end of the cooking time. When the onions are done, pour in chicken broth, remove pan from heat, and allow to cool.
Beat eggs and cream together in a large mixing bowl. Stir in sage, thyme, nutmeg, and pepper. Add cooled onion mixture and bread crumbs and mix thoroughly. When well blended, press ingredients down firmly with the back of a spoon and allow it to rest 30 minutes to absorb liquid and flavors.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Thoroughly butter a souffle dish or loaf pan, or spray with one of those nonstick pan coatings. Spoon mixture firmly into pan. Bang the pan bottom sharply on a hard surface a couple of times to settle ingredients, and finish by pressing and smoothing the top with your fingers. Strew flakes of remaining butter over the surface.
Place the pan on the center rack of the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until firm and nicely browned. Do not overbake-remember, this is bread *pudding*, not bread loaf. Serve hot or at room temperature or cold-they're all divine.
Afterthoughts: You may make this a day ahead. Bake it in a loaf pan, chill thoroughly, slice, and saute it in butter to go along with creamy scrambled eggs and crisp, thick-sliced bacon.
Then again you might layer it with oysters and lashings of dry sherry.
It's no slouch either with ham or pork chops and homemade coarse applesauce.