FOR THE BAKED APPLES & BREAD PUDDING ~ Preheat oven to 200 degrees F with an oven rack in the lowest position.
Bake cubed bread in a large rimmed pan for 40 to 45 minutes or until crisp, then set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, peel the top quarter of each apple &, using a melon baller, scoop out the stem, core & enough of the inside so that walls of apple are about 1/2 inch thick, being careful not to break through the bottoms of the apples. If necessary, trim the bottoms slightly so that apples sit upright.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, molasses, butter, eggs, half-and-half, ginger, vanilla & nutmeg, blending well.
Increase oven temperature to 325 degrees F, & as it heats, bake pecans in a shallow pan 10 to 12 minutes or until golden.
Add bread & cranberries to the molasses mixture, tossing to coat, then let stand, stirring occasionally, for some 12 minutes, or until 2/3 of the liquid is absorbed.
Stir in the pecans, then generously stuff the apples with the bread mixture, mounding it. Set the apples in a 9 x13 baking dish & a smaller shallow dish, which will probably be necessary.
Bake about 1 hour or untile ach apple is very tender when pierced, checking after 40 minutes. Tent loosely with foil if they are getting dark.
Serve warm in shallow bowls (with vanilla ice cream on the side, if desired), topped with warm caramel sauce.
FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE ~ In a 3- to 4-quart sauce pan over high heat, stir butter & sugar 2 to 4 minutes or until mixture is caramel-colored.
Remove from heat & add whipping cream, stirring the foaming mixture until blended, then reture to high heat & stir another 1 to 2 minutes or until caramel sauce comes to a rolling boil.