Place the raisins in a small bowl and pour the brandy over them. Set aside for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer the bread in the baking dish. Add the pecans and the cheese to the bread, mixing both in lightly. Scatter the raisins over the top, including any brandy not absorbed by the fruit.
In a small skillet, warm 2 tbsp of the butter. Add apple and apricots and saute until softened. Spoon the fruit over the raisins.
Pour the sugar into a large, heavy saucepan. Warm over medium high heat till the sugar melts and turns a deep golden brown, about 8 - 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure even melting. Pour the water into the molten sugar, standing back from the pan to avoid the steam that will rise as the water hits the sugar. The mixture will partially solidify.
Continue cooking till liquid again, stirring occasionally. Add the apple cider, orange juice, butter, vanilla and spices to the syrup. Ladle the syrup carefully over the bread. When the preparation is complete, the syrup should be about level with the top of the bread. If any bread pieces aren't coated, push them into the syrup.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, till the syrup has absorbed and the cheese has melted into the pudding. Serve the pudding hot, topped with whipped cream if you like.