Summer PuddingAugust 13, 2009
I am always flip flopping on what my favorite dessert is but I am certain my favorite summer dessert is summer pudding. It is now on the dessert menus at Farallon and Waterbar. I usually don’t have the same desserts at both restaurants but summer pudding is the exception. The wait staff is always asking me “When are you putting summer pudding on?” I can’t give it to one and not the other.
English in origin, it is basically dense white bread layered with cooked berries. The whole pudding is weighted down overnight to compress the layers. This allows you to unmold and slice it. Jeremiah Tower taught me to make this version at Stars Restaurant over 20 years ago. It was love at first sight and I have been making it ever since. Simple but incredibly delicious. It is so much more than bread and jam.
At the restaurants we use homemade brioche but at home I use white sandwich bread. No specific brand is required but you want bread with texture- not Wonder bread type bread that disappears when liquid comes in contact with it. Baguettes don’t work as they won’t soak up the berry juices. Challah is a good choice.
I use a combination of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. The English also use red currants. Red currants are a delicious but they are hard to find so I leave them out. Some recipes call for cherries or even gelatin but not mine.
Once you have made it and gotten the general idea you don’t really need a specific recipe. More of one kind of a berry over another is okay. Crushed berries are fine since you are going to cook them anyway. What is important is the soaking and layering of the bread with the berry juices and weighing it down.
All summer pudding needs as a garnish is some softly whipped cream flavored with a bit of sugar and vanilla.
One word of warning- Don’t eat it all for dinner you will want to save some for breakfast.
3 pints strawberries (about 6 cups), hulled and quartered
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of kosher salt
2 pints blackberries (about 4 cups)
2 1/2 pints raspberries (about 5 cups)
1 loaf (1 pound) Brioche or thick sliced white bread
Spray an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 3/4-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. Line the sprayed pan with plastic wrap, making sure to press it into the corners and allowing a 1 1/2-inch overhang on all sides.
In a heavy, nonreactive saucepan, combine the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries begin to give up some of their juice, about 10 minutes. Add the blackberries and raspberries and continue cooking until all the berries are soft and have broken apart, forming a sauce, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to warm.
Trim off the crusts from the bread and cut the loaf into slices 1/4 inch thick. If the bread is tore bought just trim off the crust.
Spread 1/2 cup of the berry sauce into the bottom of the prepared pan. One piece at a time, dip the brioche into the sauce in the saucepan, saturating it. Place the berry-soaked brioche pieces in the pan, forming a single layer and a snug fit. Spread 1/2 cup of the berry sauce on top of the brioche. Repeat the layering, starting with the berry-soaked brioche, until the pan is full, ending with the berry sauce.
Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet. Cover with a pan that fits just inside the loaf pan. (Another loaf pan of the same size usually works.) Put a large food can or other weight heavy enough to compress the pudding into the second pan. Some of the berry juices will leak out. That’s why you want it on the baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
To unmold the pudding, remove the weight and pan and invert the loaf pan onto a cutting board. Lift off the pan and carefully peel off the plastic. Cut the loaf into 8 slices and place on individual plates. Serve with whipped cream.
Planning Ahead- The pudding may be made up to two days ahead and kept refrigerated. Unmold just before serving.