In a bowl, combine raisins, the 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, and the 2 teaspoons brandy. Pour boiling water over raisin mixture. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes or until raisins are plump. Drain.
Generously butter an 8x8x2-inch baking dish (2-quart square). Lightly spread bread with the 1 tablespoon butter; cut slices into fourths. Arrange bread in the baking dish, overlapping slightly to fit. Sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon brandy (if you like), the ground cinnamon, and drained raisins. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine milk and whipping cream. Add vanilla bean and cinnamon stick, if you like. Bring just to boiling, uncovered (watch carefully, as mixture will foam). Remove and discard vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Add liquid vanilla here, if using.
Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs and the 2/3 cup granulated sugar until pale yellow. While continuing to beat, pour hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Beat until well combined.
Place baking dish in larger baking pan. Set on oven rack in a 300 degree F oven. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread in baking dish. Pour boiling water into larger baking pan to a depth of 1 inch.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Drizzle the preserves over the top of the pudding.
Serve warm sprinkled with additional brandy and some powdered sugar, if you like. Makes 8 servings.
If you like, substitute dried cherries or cranberries for the raisins.