Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise with a paring knife.
Scrape the seeds from the pod and combine them with the pod and the cream in a heavy sauce pan.
Scald the cream, remove from heat, and set aside uncovered 1 hour to steep.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Strain cream, discarding the pod, and reheat to scalding.
Whisk the eggs with the sugar in a mixing bowl.
Very slowly, add the hot cream to the yolks, whisking constantly.
Arrange bread slices in a 3-quart souffle dish, overlapping the slices.
Pour custard mixture over the bread, submerging the slices with a spoon so they soak up some of the liquid.
Place souffle dish in a roasting pan, and fill the pan with enough hot water to come half way up the side of the souffle dish.
Bake the pudding in its water bath for 30-40 minutes, until the edges have set and the center is still a bit runny.
The pudding will continue to cook out of the oven and will set completely as it cools.
Stir the pudding every 5 minutes durng baking (run a rubber scraper around the inside of the souffle dish, gently pushing the outside of the pudding toward the center).
Serve the bread pudding warm.