|Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the sugar, water and pecan pieces in a small saucepan. Simmer for thirty minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half. Strain the pecan syrup and let cool. Place the pecan pieces on a cookie sheet and bake them until dry and crispy. Remove pecans from oven and reserve.
Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Cream eggs with the sugar, vanilla extract and spices. Stir in the milk, orange juice and rum. Place the slices of bread in a shallow pan that can fit the bread slices in one layer. Pour the batter over the top. Allow the bread to soak up all of the liquid, turning them over once.
In a saute pan over medium heat, add butter and allow it to melt. Add soaked bread slices and cook on both sides until light golden brown. Transfer the toasts to a buttered cookie sheet or ovenproof pan. Bake the slices for about six minutes.
Serve the French toast with the pecan syrup and garnish with fresh berries, whipped cream (if using) and the toasted pecans.
10 thick slices of brioche or 5 thick slices of panettone