Summer Pudding is a classic British dessert made with summer fruits, but it can also be made any time of the year as well. It is quite simple to prepare, yet it is packed with great flavor and color. There are a number of recipes for this desert, but they are all generally made with thinly sliced bread layered into a bowl to form the shape of the pudding. The bread-lined bowl is filled with the fruits and their juices or syrup. The pudding is placed in the refrigerator overnight, turned out onto a plate, and served with cream. The choices for fruit include raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, black or red currents, cherries or anything that you enjoy. I made a version of this recipes with tomatoes and ordered one with pineapple at a restaurant in France. I have also made it in the winter using frozen berries. It is not quite the same, but still very enjoyable. You can even make individual puddings using a small cup as a mold and without a mold using a cookie cutter. Gordon Ramsay has an interesting recipe for an individual summer pudding with lime crème fraîche and a blackberry coulis, as well as a more traditional summer pudding using a cappuccino cup.
(This recipe uses a 6 cup size glass or stainless steel bowl for the mold. It will serve 8 to 10 people. But you can use any size bowl or mold that you wish and adjust the quantities accordingly.)
3 pounds of mixed fruits (such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, red or black currents, cherries with the pits removed) stems removed and cleaned
additional 1/2 pound raspberries for sauce and additional fresh fruit of your choice for serving
zest and juice of one small lemon, preferably unwaxed organic, cleaned sugar, around 1 cup, but taste the berries and adjust sugar according the sweetness of the berries and your taste (substitute agave or stevia, if you prefer and adjust the quantity)
1/4 cup of Cointreau, or Crème de Cassis
bread, preferably dense, slightly stale and thinly sliced, with crusts trimmed. If you are slicing it yourself, you can refrigerate the bread overnight to make it easier to slice. Pepperidge Farm Very Thin Sliced White Bread also works quite well. A 6 cup size mold will use about 1 to 1 1/2 loaves of bread.
1 or 2 cups of cream or crème frâiche
In a non-reactive pan, cook the sugar, lemon juice, zest and Cointreau in 2 1/2 cups of water over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves, about 2 to 3 minutes. This will be used to poach the berries and form the base of the sauce for the pudding. The different types of fruits should be poached separately and for different amounts of time. You want the fruits to release their juices and become slightly softer, but still retain their shape. For example, the denser fruits like strawberries should be poached for about 2 minutes, while the softer ones such as raspberries, blackberries and blueberries for about 30 to 40 seconds.
Each type of fruit should be removed with a slotted spoon and transferred to the same bowl. Allow the fruits to cool. Taste the sauce and adjust the sugar and Cointreau, if necessary. Add the additional raspberries to the syrup and continue cooking until they are very soft, mashing them with a spoon as they cook, about 10 to 12 minutes. The sauce should be slightly reduced and thickened. You are essentially making a thin coulis. If you zested the lemon into long strips, you can remove them at this time. Omit if you used a microplane zester. Allow the syrup to cool and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the pudding.
Butter the inside of your bowl. Cut one slice of bread to fit the bottom of the bowl, dip it into the syrup and place it into your bowl. Dip additional slices of bread into the syrup and line the sides of the bowl with the slices slightly overlapping. Cut the bread, as required, to fit into place.
Spoon 1/2 of the fruit mixture into the bowl. Cut additional slices of bread, dip them into the syrup and arrange them on top of the fruit mixture, again overlapping slightly. Press down lightly and add the remainder of the fruit mixture to the bowl. Seal the bowl with 2 layers of slightly overlapping slices of bread, also dipped into the syrup.
Cover the pudding with plastic wrap and a small flat plate that fits snuggly inside of the bowl. Weigh down the plate with several large cans, approximately 3 pounds. Place the bowl on a plate, since the juices may seep out and refrigerate overnight.
When you are ready to serve the pudding, slide a knife or a flexible spatula gently between the edge of the bread and the bowl to loosen. Invert the bowl onto a serving platter. The pudding should slide easily into place.
Cut into wedges and serve with cream, fresh whipped cream, or crème frâiche (mixed with a bit sugar and lime zest), the remaining sauce, some additional fruits and Prosecco.