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Delicate Bread Pudding

['25 ounces brioche, sliced', '4 cups whole milk, at room temperature', '3 large eggs, separated', '1/2 cup sugar', 'Pinch of salt', '1 teaspoon vanilla extract', '1/2 cup sugar, or more to taste', 'Grated zest and juice of 1 large orange, or more juice to taste', '1 cup water', '1/2 cup dry white wine or cherry or plum eau-de-vie']

1. To make the puddings, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter six 10-ounce ramekins. Combine the brioche and milk in a saucepan and let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat, and when bubbles form around the edges of the milk, remove from the heat.
3. In a mixer fitted with a paddle (or in a bowl with a hand mixer), beat together the egg yolks and sugar until light and pale. Lightly beat the hot bread mixture into the eggs. It will break up into chunks, but don't let it turn to mash.
4. Whisk the whites with the salt in the clean mixer bowl (or a large bowl) until they hold soft peaks. Beat in the vanilla. Fold the whites into the bread mixture. Ladle the pudding mixture into the ramekins. Set the ramekins in a baking dish just large enough to hold them, and pour enough boiling water into the dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
5. Bake the puddings until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the water bath.
6. While the puddings bake, make the sauce: Combine the sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the white wine. Taste and adjust the orange juice and sugar, if desired.
7. To serve, invert the puddings into shallow bowls, and spoon a little sauce over and around each.

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