The ‘crown’ in these queen of puddings is the topping of meringue kisses – make sure you give each kiss a little peak as you pipe the meringue so that they bake and harden to give the full, regal effect.
Heat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/315°F/Gas 2–3.
Tip 60g of the brioche into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs. Scatter equal amounts of the breadcrumbs in an even layer in the bottom of the 4 ramekins. Set aside.
Make the custard. Pour the milk in a saucepan. Split open the vanilla pod with a small, sharp knife and scrape out the seeds with the tip of the knife. Add both the seeds and the pod to the pan. Place the pan over a low heat and gently bring the milk just to the boil, then immediately take it off the heat.
Whisk the sugar and egg yolks together in a bowl. Pour on the hot milk and whisk well. (It’s important to pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, not the other way round, and to keep whisking, to avoid the custard curdling.) Strain the custard through a sieve into a jug.
Pour the custard over the breadcrumbs in the ramekins and leave to stand for 5 minutes, until the breadcrumbs have absorbed the custard. Stand the ramekins in a roasting tin and pour in enough boiling water to come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until the custard is set. Remove from the roasting tin and leave to cool. Reduce the oven to 150°C/130°C fan/300°F/Gas 2.
When the custard is cool, spread a thin layer of raspberry jam over the top, then set aside.
For the meringue, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Whisk in the sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking between each addition, until you have a fluffy meringue that holds stiff peaks. Spoon three-quarters of the meringue into the piping bag.
Spread the remaining meringue over the jam in the ramekins and smooth it with a palette knife. Pipe meringue kisses over the top of the smooth meringue to cover.
Place the ramekins on a baking tray (no water this time) and bake for 10–15 minutes, until the meringue is lightly golden. Remove from the oven and serve.