For Americans, the word "pudding" may evoke images of Bill Cosby hawking cups of the rich creamy chocolate dessert on TV, but elsewhere in the world, "pudding" is a word used to describe a whole family of dense starch-based dishes that can be either sweet or savory. Summer pudding hails form the UK where it was once a popular treat during the warmer months. While it may not enjoy the pedigree of an Eton Mess or the popularity of Scones, it deserves a place in the pantheon of delicious simple desserts.
Summer berry pudding is proof that with a handful of good ingredients, you can make an elegant dessert that tastes as good as it looks. Put simply, this dessert is just some stale bread and berries with a bit of sugar refrigerated in a bowl overnight. While this may be an accurate description of the level of effort, it's a woefully inadequate description of the magic that happens when these humble ingredients come together.
As the berries macerate with the sugar, they release their juices, which are eagerly lapped up by the stale bread. By the time the bread has mingled with the berries overnight, the humble loaf has morphed into a luscious pudding, that's like a cake soaked in the lifeblood of the berries.
While I stuck with raspberries and blackberries for their vibrant hue and fragrant flavor, you can make this pudding with just about any fruit that readily releases juices when coaxed with a little sugar. Strawberries, gooseberries, and currents are a few other berries that work well, but peaches and pineapples would also work. I used a homemade pullman loaf, but any good quality sandwich bread will work fine.
- Remove the crusts from the bread.
- Line a 1.4 liter (1.5 quart) bowl with a piece of plastic wrap that's much larger than the diameter of the bowl.
- Mix the berries with the sugar, lemon juice, and a pinch of lemon zest. Toss to coat evenly and let the berries sit while you work on the bread. You can speed the maceration up by vacuum sealing the berries in a bag.
- Line the bowl with bread, cutting pieces out to ensure there are no overlaps and no gaps. If the bread isn't very stale, leave it in a windy place for an hour to dry out a bit.
- Pour the berries and juice into the bread-lined mold.
- Cut some more bread out to make a lid for the berries, ensuring there are no gaps or overlaps.
- Pull the wrap over the bread, pressing down on the berries a bit to flatten the surface, and then place a weight on top of the bowl that’s slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl. A straight-sided pot with cans in it works well.
- Refrigerate overnight with the weight. Serve with whipped cream or cashew cream.