Well, we've left June and moved onto July, which can only mean one thing - new recipe sneak peek from my upcoming book, "Cook This Now" to be published in October. July is the peak of berry season and the farmers' market stalls are overflowing with them, including juicy currants, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. A summer berry pudding is the perfect way to take advantage of the bounty.
It wouldn’t be the Fourth of July without a barbecue at my friends Karen and Dave’s house, a convivial event that includes an icy bowl of strong punch, a spirited reading of the declaration of independence, copious amounts of grilled leg of lamb, and for dessert, Karen’s opulently purple berry summer pudding, dripping with crème Anglaise.
This version is pretty faithful to Karen’s recipe, with two tiny tweaks. I use soft whole-wheat bread in place of white bread for the pudding mold, and rose water in place of lavender flowers for the creamy sauce. Covered with all those luscious berries, you can’t really tell the difference between soft whole-wheat and plain white bread, so I figure I might as well add a few grams of fiber. And since I didn’t have any lavender flowers around when I made this, I reached for the most floral substitute I could find.
It’s an ideal summer dessert because you can make it ahead, it doesn’t require turning on the oven, and it takes excellent advantage of all the berries of the season. And if those aren’t reasons enough to make it, here is one more: It’s absolutely fantastic.
Makes 8 servings
For the Pudding:
1 1/2 pounds mixed berries (about 5 cups)
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
10 to 15 slices soft whole wheat Pullman loaf, crusts removed
For the Crème Anglaise (Makes about 2 1/2 cups):
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons rosewater or vanilla extract (or to taste)
1. To make the pudding, combine the berries, sugar, and 1/3 cup water in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and berries release their juices, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice. The sauce should be sweet, with a hint of tartness. Adjust with more sugar or lemon juice as needed.
2. Spoon an even layer of berry syrup (not the berries themselves) in the bottom of an 8-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with a single layer of bread; cut the bread into pieces as necessary to fit. Spoon 1/3 of the fruit on top of the bread, making sure the bread is completely coated; top with a layer of bread. Spoon another 1/3 of the fruit over the bread; top with another layer of bread. Spoon the remaining 1/3 of the fruit over the bread. Let the mixture cool completely, then wrap the pan tightly with plastic wrap. Place a light weight (a thick and preferably trashy paperback novel is perfect) on top of the pudding. Refrigerate overnight.
3. To make the crème Anglaise, prepare a large ice water bath. Bring the milk and cream to barely a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan (bubbles will just begin to form around the edges).
4. In a bowl slightly smaller than the ice water bath, whisk together the yolks, sugar, and salt. Slowly whisk in the hot milk until fully incorporated. Return the mixture to the pot. Cook, stirring constantly over medium-high heat, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (170° F). Strain sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Stir in the rosewater. If it needs a bit more, go ahead and add it, but please have a light touch or it might wind up tasting like soap. Place the bowl into the water bath and stir occasionally until completely cool.
5. Run a knife around the sides of the summer pudding, then turn it over onto a plate to unmold. Serve in slices with the custard on the side.
- You can skip the custard sauce and serve this with whipped cream or ice cream. Since there is no butter in the pudding itself, it greatly benefits from something rich on the side.
- A mix of as many different kinds of berries as you can find is ideal. I made it with a mix of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, and it was lovely.
- Karen goes out of her way to use fresh currants in the berry mix. Besides from adding great flavor, they also bleed lots of juice, which is what you want to help cover up all the pale bread. As she says, “it’s always so sad to see the white bread peeking through.” So do the same if you can find them.
- Don’t try to use anything but fluffy whole-wheat bread here, the soft crusted, kid-friendly, supermarket kind and not the crusty, seed-filled, fancy bakery/health food store kind. If you can’t get soft whole-wheat bread, use white.
Photo by Andrew Scrivani