This is a maple treat worth serving for breakfast or dessert.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and set aside. Arrange bread on two large rimmed baking sheets; bake until dry (but not browned), about 15 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together half-and-half, eggs, syrup, vanilla, and salt. Add bread to custard and toss. In prepared dish, stand slices upright in rows, pressing on each row to compact it. Pour any remaining custard in bowl over top and let stand 10 minutes.
Sprinkle bread pudding with pecans and bake until center is hot and most of custard is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly. Serve with maple syrup and cream, if desired.