Thursday, August 11, 2011

Summer Pudding

Summer Pudding from Barefoot Contessa
Have you heard of "Summer Pudding"?  You have probably seen it and recognize it by it's brilliant color.
Summer Pudding is an English dessert, a trifle really. It features layers of fruit, traditionally berries, (which are prevalent in summer) and white bread.  And since you use stale bread, there is no baking required, which makes for a cool kitchen. Of course, there are variations and lots of recipes, but there are a few "tricks of the trade".

Photo from Cultural Concubine

BREAD
Most recipes all for using white bread.  While this is traditional because the berries stain the white bread brilliantly, it is also delicious to use other types of bread.  Most importantly, use STALE bread.  But, be careful in using "airy bread".  Ideally, the bread has to stand up and give the pudding it's framework, so you want it to be thick and dense, not airy and soft.

BERRIES
Summer pudding features brilliantly colored berries and you can use almost any type.  Historically, English cooks used a 4:1 ratio of raspberries to currants, but any summer fruit will do.  The key is the preparation.  You want the berries to be as luscious and juicy as can be.  Proper preparation includes making a syrup and placing the berries in the syrup to bloom, giving off their juices and becoming sweet and plump. Also, some people recommend the addition of citrus zest to bring out the flavor of the berries.  (Also, this can be done with stone fruit, such as peaches and apricots.)

JUICE
While the juice part goes along with the berries, it is crucial to have lots of juice for which to make the pudding consistency as it soaks into the bread.  The berries give off their own juice and with the addition of water the syrup, it is usually enough.  But, many recipes call for additional fruit juice or even booze, such as brandy or rum.  This is a great way to customize the pudding to your own liking.

CREAM
Summer pudding is traditionally served with heavy cream, pourable, not whipped.  Still others serve it with whipped cream, clotted cream or creme fraiche.  The choice is yours.  The cream (in any form) is a lovely contrast to the juice berries.

SHAPE
Any shape pan will do for the pudding.  Some people make individual puddings inside ramekins or small bowls, others use molds or decorative bowls.  Even shallow casserole pans work well.

TIME
Summer puddings need to be made in advance, at least one day.  This gives the pudding time to set up as the juice absorbs into the bread.

SAVEUR has a wonderful basic recipe for Summer Pudding, here is is with some modifications....

1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups water
Juice from 1 lemon or lime
2 3/4 pounds berries, any combination
2 T brandy or rum
10 - 15 slices stale bread, crusts removed


Cook sugar, lemon juice, and 2 1/4 cups water in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium, add berries and poach for 2 minutes. Remove berries with a slotted spoon, but leave 1 cup of berries and cook until very soft, about 10 minutes, mash with a spoon. Cool syrup. Stir in 2 T brandy.
Use a pastry brush to lightly coat a deep 1-quart bowl with syrup. Cut 1 slice of bread to fit the bottom, dip it into syrup, and place in bowl. Dip additional bread slices into syrup and line sides of bowl, overlapping slightly.
Spoon about a third of mixed berries into bowl. Cut several more bread slices to make an even layer of bread over berries, then dip into syrup, arrange, and press down lightly. Repeat process twice, ending with a double layer of bread. Refrigerate remaining syrup.
Cover pudding with plastic wrap, place a plate on top, and weigh it down with two large cans. Place bowl on a plate (juice may seep out) and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Invert pudding onto a platter (if pudding sticks, slide a knife around the edge) and serve cold with reserved syrup and cream.

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