Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer Pudding

We had a huge summer pudding at Grace's graduation and good-bye party. I planned on following David Lebovitz's recipe, and started there. But summer pudding is the kind of dessert that requires some improvisation, and invites using what you have. I happen to have lots of red currants, and so they figured heavily in my pudding.

I'm one of those people who loves seeds. It's a lucky thing, because I'm also one of those people who likes making her life easier. Liking seeds is so much less work that trying to remove them from everything! Blackberry and raspberry seeds are so small I don't even notice them. And tomato seeds, well, how could you not love trying to split them between your front teeth? Red currant seeds are admittedly more substantial, but I like their textural addition to a dessert.

I started with 4 loaves of Ken's pain rustique. I would have used their pain de mie, but, sadly, Ken's only sells that to restaurants.

Since I was making the summer pudding on a Friday, I missed the berries at the farmers markets. But I'm lucky to live in Portland, and to have a local grocery store--New Seasons--that carries a broad selection of local produce. I picked up raspberries, marionberries, and boysenberries at the store (8 pints all together). Back at home, I got some currants--two gallon bags--out of the freezer.

At this point, I gave up on following the recipe. I put all the berries into a big pot, warmed them with sugar to taste. Meanwhile, I sliced the bread, removing the crusts. This, by the way, is a completely foreign activity to me. I've never removed bread crusts, even for my children when they were little. It was, instead, always a point of honor for me, raising kids who ate bread crusts.

When the berries had released their juices, I ladled a bit into my biggest rectangular baking pans. A layer of sliced bread followed, and then more berries. I finished mine with a layer of berries. Not because I planned it that way--it would have been neater ending with a bread layer. But I ran out of bread first, so more berries went on top.

The fun part with summer pudding is weighing it down. I covered the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and then set another rectangular pan--one that was a tad smaller, so it would settle into the bottom pan--on top.

On my way down to the basement refrigerator, I stopped in the pantry to grab all the cans of tomatoes I had (5) and a few stray cans of tuna. These got nestled into the top pan, and the whole affair went into the refrigerator to rest until the party the next night.

It's maybe not obvious that summer pudding is a rich dessert. It's just fruit and bread, after all--like toast and jam. Perhaps 'rich' isn't the right word. Summer pudding is an intense dessert---the mingling berry perfumes settle into the slices of bread, and each bite bursts with them. So a small square with a dollop of whipped cream is all you need.

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Barbra said...

This is definitely one of my favorite desserts, and I agree that it demands improvisation. I once worked for someone who insisted that I follow a summer pudding recipe to the letter, and that's when I knew it wouldn't last between us.

Charles Shere said...

I never thought of making summer pudding with tuna and tomatoes.

Giovanna said...

Hmm...summer pudding with tuna and tomatoes sounds like some sort of panzanella or something. But better not compress it, I think--besides, no heavy cans of currants use for weights!

Summer pudding is a good dessert to make if you're one of those people who hate following recipes exactly, it does allow for embellishments. I wonder how some scented geranium would be in it? Or a little lemon verbena?

And a note: I have lots of frozen currants, so, technically could make this year-round. But how could you ever serve Summer Pudding in January? Maybe if I called it 'Unseasonable Pudding'...

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