Summer is when fruit rules. But for sweet-toothed purists, fruit isn’t dessert. Berry pudding on the other hand, meets anyone’s dessert definition. It’s a berry explosion, sweet, bright and jammy. It’s beat-the- heat cool, and made principally of fresh berries — blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, currants, any mix of berries at their peak — tastes like summer.
More to love — it requires no baking, you can make it a day or two ahead, it’s molded — it’s English in origin, and the Brits love their shapes — and offers a certain ooh-ahh factor. Yet the recipe is simplicity itself. Summer berry pudding is berries and bread. Think of trifle, that quintessentially English layering of cake and custard and jam, minus the goop.
I’ve seen versions of summer berry pudding made with brioche or pound cake for richness, but that’s just gilding the English rose. Nor is summer berry pudding where your artisanal baguette belongs. They’re fine and fancy elsewhere. Here they only dim the essence of the berries. Summer berry pudding is meant to be made with a simple loaf of bread, the softer the better, to soak up all that luscious berry juice. We’re talking supermarket bread. Flavor meets frugality (my favorite combination). Another plus — the dessert is totally fat-free, vegan and, if you care about such things, rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins, those fantastic flavanols in berries.
However, if another kind of richness is what you’re after, pair your pudding with scoops of ice cream, billows of whipped cream, dollops of coconut cream, which is plant-based and therefore lets your vegan guests feel decadent, too. Vegans like dessert, too, you know. And making a sweet, stylish dessert is easy, especially in summer, when fruit rules.
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 5 cups fresh berries, any mix of fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries,
- mulberries or currants
- Half a loaf of soft white or whole wheat bread (about 15 slices ), crusts removed.
- Rinse berries and discard any stemmy bits.
- In a large pot, heat orange juice and sugar over medium heat. Stir for a minute or two, until sugar dissolves. Pour in all your berries.
- Stir and continue cooking over medium heat, until the berries release all their lovely juice, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Ladle a generous amount of berry juice — not the berries themselves — enough to cover the bottom of a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan or 6-cup mold or pudding basin (to use the delightfully archaic English term). Top berry juice with a layer of bread, cutting slices to fit. Line the sides of the mold with bread sliced snugly to fit, as well.
- Now layer on a good third of your berries and their juices, so the bread beneath is completely covered. Top the berries with another layer of bread. Repeat with another layer of berries and juice, then top with another layer of bread. Save the last third of the berries and juice to cover the top, making sure there’s no bread peeking through. Set aside and allow pudding to cool.
- Press a layer or two of plastic wrap on top of the pudding, then weight it down by setting a heavy plate or something similar on top. Innovate. I’ve used an eggplant that happened to be right there in the fridge and that worked fine. Refrigerate.
- Let the berries and bread be smooshed and the pudding chill overnight or up two days. When you’re ready to serve, remove weight, take the pudding from the fridge and unwrap. Run a butter knife around the edge, place a plate with a lip (to save any juice) or a shallow bowl on top.
- Invert the pudding onto the plate. It should unmold perfectly.
- Stop, admire, then serve, cutting into wedges or slices as desired, with ice cream or whipped dairy or coconut cream.
- Serves 6 to 8.