Summer Pudding

Two book signings and 5 exhausting days at San Diego Comic Con promoting A Feast of Ice and Fire later, we've made it back to the east coast filled with oysters, avocados, and convention center pretzels. Craving something sweet, summery, and easy to make, I headed to the kitchen. Enter summer pudding.

Summer pudding is a perfect way to use the overflowing bounty of summer berries in your yard (or local fruit stand if you live in the city like I do!). It is a popular misconception that summer pudding used to be called 'hydropathic pudding' and was served in health spas. In actuality, the mostly raw fruit contained in summer pudding was considered extremely unhealthy till the mid 20th century, at which time summer pudding as we know it was developed.

The earliest recipe that resembles a summer pudding was published in 1902 by S. Beaty-Pownall in the Sweets No. 6 cookery book, however it still calls for hot stewed fruit. John Ayto tells us that it wasn't until the 1930's that the dessert was dubbed 'summer pudding.'

In the summer months the traditional fruits in the pudding include currants, raspberries, black currants, and occasionally a few strawberries. Blackberries are often added closer to autumn, and they, as well as blueberries, create a more purple hue than the traditional appearance. Whether a red or purple pudding is your plan, be sure to use day-old sliced bread. As in making bread pudding, the slightly stale bread absorbs the berry juice much better, creating a more vibrant presentation.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint red currants
  • 1 pint raspberries
  • 1 pint black currants, blueberries or blackberries (optional)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 slices of white bread, slightly stale

Lightly oil your pudding basin with olive and paper towel. Slice any crusts off the bread, and line the pudding basin, overlapping each edge to prevent the insides from oozing out. You won't be able to make it perfect until the filling is poured in, but have a go. Cut one or two pieces big enough to fill the circumference of the basin.

To make the filling, pour the sugar and fruit into a saucepan, and heat over a medium flame just until the sugar has dissolved. In my experience, the raspberries tend to  mostly break up during this step, so set some fresh ones aside to add later. Pour all but a half cup of the filling into the bread lined pudding basin, and top with the round cut pieces of bread. Cover with parchment paper, and place a saucer or plate that just fits into the basin. Place weights on top of the saucer and let sit for at least 24 hours.

Turn out the pudding onto a serving platter, and top with the reserved filling. Be sure to cover any part of the bread that did not soak up the beautiful color. Serve with plenty of cream - heavy, whipped or clotted. Enjoy!