You never forget your first time.
No, we’re not talking about that. But rather that everyone who has ever had summer pudding has a distinct memory of their first taste, digging into a dense concoction of bread or cake with glistening blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and their juices, served with softly whipped cream.
It’s sensational any time of the year, made with seasonal berries or ones found in your local supermarket in the dead of winter.
The latter was tested with wonderful results when, the night before a February blizzard blew in, and with no sense of irony, Mary made summer pudding. Snow bound, with plenty of wood for the fireplace, we ate it with cream all weekend.
The first time we tasted it was in Dublin after a long, lingering alfresco dinner in the endless twilight of a July evening. It was a familiar dessert for our Irish friends, but a revelation to us.
Summer by the forkful.
Following dinner, we were given a small basin of leftover pudding to take with us. It sat on ice all night in our hotel sink. We attacked it first thing in the morning. The best breakfast ever.
That’s one of the extras of this dish, that it doesn’t matter what season you’re going to make it (although summer is preferred), you can eat it first thing in the morning, as a snack in the afternoon or as a memorable desert.
Mary Lydon’s Summer Pudding
• 4 cups of mixed berries
• 1/4 cup of sugar or a little more
• Lemon juice to taste (zest and juice of half)
•1/2 cup of water
• Loaf of sliced babka or brioche with crusts trimmed (freeze leftovers, including crusts, for a great bread pudding)
Simmer berries, sugar and water for 5 to 7 minutes. Add lemon juice.
Pour through colander to separate fruit from juice. Keep both the fruit and the juice, fruit in one bowl and juice in another. Let cool.
Line an 8-inch round by 3-inch high bowl with plastic wrap, allowing an inch or two to hang over the edge.
Trim crusts from half a loaf of bread (may use more).
Dip each piece in juice as you assemble.
Cut first slice to size of bottom, and then line sides of bowl with more slices, slightly overlapping.
Into the middle, spoon a layer of fruit, layer of bread, remaining fruit, and finish with remaining bread.
Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and seal by bringing up overhanging pieces to cover.
Then, place a round dish slightly smaller than circumference of bowl, and weight it down with a heavy can (tomatoes?).
Place in refrigerator overnight (or at least 6 to 8 hours).
Reserve remaining juice (should be about a half cup) to patch outside when unmolded.
To unmold, remove can and wrap from top of bowl (now bottom of pudding).
Turn over onto serving plate and carefully remove wrap that had lined bowl.
Patch any spots that have not been saturated with juice.
Serve with poured heavy cream, slightly sweetened and softly whipped, with sprigs of mint. Dark rum and/or vanilla can be added to the cream as well.
Also good served plain or with powdered sugar. Ice cream, in my opinion, is overkill.
Cake or plain old white bread can be used, but the berries are best with brioche.
Leftovers (ha!) will keep in the refrigerator for two to three days.