Step 1 To plump the prunes and apricots, place them in a medium saucepan with the wine or tea and cinnamon. Cover and simmer until the fruit is very tender and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 2 Soak the bread briefly in the milk, then add it to the pan, off heat, along with the sugar, butter, orange zest, eggs and rum, if using. Stir gently to combine.
Step 3Turn the mixture into a well-buttered 1 1/2 -quart Pyrex casserole or a medium-size oval gratin dish and bake in a 375-degree oven for 15 minutes.
Step 4Sprinkle on the sliced almonds and continue baking for another 15 minutes, or until the pudding is firm and the almonds are nicely browned. Allow to cool slightly before serving.