One of the delightful things about any time of year, is the natural bounty of the season. For me, the best of summer, is fruit, and the best of summer fruit is the berries. And, the best way to eat them is as they come, while still warm from the sun after picking. I think, the next best way to eat berries, is this classic British dish. It’s been a favourite dessert for a very long time. I think I first dabbled with summer pudding when I was a teenager, but later went on to make many in individual portions when cooking in restaurants.
While a lot of people are a bit put off with all the detailed weighing and measuring for some desserts, this is relaxed and easy to make, just like the season ought to be.
Some of my food friends will use fancy breads, brioche, cake or even croissants to make this dessert. I don’t agree. I prefer to make my summer pudding, from a good white bread, most usually a day or two old (as was the original intent of this dessert – waste not, want not – use up the old bread). White bread also serves as a better foil to the marvellous flavour of the berries, but I use what I have at hand and the one pictured, was made with an unsliced light grain sourdough.
750g (1lb) mixed berries
1 cup red wine (or water)
1/2 large loaf of bread
Make this one, preferably two days before you want to turn it out, to give the berries time to soak into the bread.
Place mixed berries in a pan. You can use any combination of red berries that are seasonal and available: blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, red currants. In this mixture, I even used half a dozen cherries I had to hand. (I halved them and removed the stone). Make sure you have trimmed any stems from the fruit too.
Add the liquid to the pan, and melt by bringing to a slow simmer for about 4 minutes. Allow to cool.
Select a bowl (1 medium size bowls – or 6 individual ramekins). A bowl with slanting sides will allow for easier plating when the dessert is ready. I prefer one bowl as this gives less bread and more berries to the pudding.
Put about 1/2 cup of berry mixture to one side.
Slice the bread removing crusts. Cut a circle of bread to fit the bottom of the bowl. Line the sides with bread. Don’t be too fussed about it being a perfect fit. (better to overlap a little too, than to leave a gap) When this is done, put about half the berry compote into the bread lining. (this should come up a little over half way). Add a layer of bread across the middle of the bowl. Then, repeat, adding the other half of the berry mix, and topping the whole lot with a covering of bread.
Cover with a suitably size plate (or saucer) then press down firmly with a weight (this can be a jar of rice, or pastry weights, or a can of something or other). Leave to sit in the refrigerator with the weights on top, at least overnight. (or two days is preferable). I give it a gentle push every now and then during the weighting (waiting) time.
When ready to serve, blend the extra 1/2 cup of berries with a splash of red wine, or water (in a food processor or blender) to make a coulis. (no need to sieve)
Run a bread and butter knife around the inside rim of the bowl, to loosen the pudding. Place the serving plate over the bowl, hold firmly and upturn. It may need a little shake, or a little more encouragement with the knife.
I use the extra berry coulis to smother the completed summer pudding once its on the serving plate. This helps to smooth out any gaps in colour. And, the summer pudding is ready to serve and eat!
If the berries are fresh and in the peak of season, I really don’t think this needs any sweetening (though you’ll see many recipes that automatically add sugar).
If you’re making summer puddings for a large number, it can be economical to supplement the fresh berries with frozen berries, and in that case you may want to add just a little sugar or honey, or even some raspberry jam. Do try and keep it a little bit tart though. (I think that is part of the appeal).
I like this as it stands, on its own. It’s also very good with clotted cream, or a little good quality vanilla icecream. Some fresh berries to garnish, don’t go astray either.