Cut or tear the bread into 1/2-inch pieces or cubes (should have 12 cups). Spread the bread cubes in a single layer in two shallow baking pans and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let them stand at room temperature for 24 hours or till the cubes are dry.
Place dry bread cubes in a well-buttered 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs for 1 minute. Add half-and-half, brown sugar, brandy, if you like, and vanilla. Whisk till combined. Pour egg mixture over bread. If needed, gently push down on the bread cubes to moisten. Cover and chill for 4 to 24 hours.
Bake in a 325 degree F oven for 35 to 40 minutes or till a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. If the top starts to overbrown, cover loosely with foil. Cool slightly.
To serve, scoop bread pudding into a bowl and serve warm with Maple Banana Sauce.
In a small saucepan, combine whipping cream, brown sugar and pure maple syrup or maple-flavored syrup. Cook and stir mixture over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes or till sugar dissolves and mixture almost boils. Remove from heat. Stir in sliced firm bananas. Serve warm over bread pudding. Makes about 2 cups.