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I'm scared of summer pudding

We're having some close friends over for a belated birthday dinner this weekend and I want to bust out a great summer dessert. I've seen lots of recommendations for summer puddings on past threads and I recently watched an Ina Garten rerun with a beautiful summer pudding. It looks beautiful and very easy, but... does it taste like a jam sandwich? Have you had it? Do you like it? Would you want a second piece? Or is it just one of those desserts that people like because it's pretty and doesn't heat up your kitchen?

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  1. No, it doesn't taste like jam--it's more like a big bowl of cool, sweet, flavorful berries, with a little bit of mysterious crust that holds everything together and that no one ever figures out. I can't imagine a more refreshing dessert on a hot and/or muggy day or evening. I have had seconds and even thirds and have even been known to make one, just for me!

    1. I've got to agree with Erika. Summer puddings are cool and delicious, and they tend to impress people because they're unusual in the US, so not something many have seen before, and they're quite stunning, with their deep berry color. They're also perfect for entertaining because they are easy to put together and must be made the day before. All you need do before serving is unmold and whip some cream. I favor recipes that use thinner pieces of bread so that it's really mostly about the fruit.

      1. If you don't have a "can't fail" recipe, I like this one:

        http://www.davidlebovitz.com/recipes/...

        1 Reply
        1. re: todao

          That's the one I was going to go for! I absolutely adore his blog. I've been so scared of the jam sandwich factor that I've held off until now, but this seems like a good occasion to give it a go. Thanks for the encouragement!

        2. As it's part of my cultural heritage, I really think you should be looking to a Brit for advice, not a Yankee who lives in Paris. *grin*

          Here's what Nigel Slater has to say on the issue of the perfect summer pudding.

          http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/e...

          1 Reply
          1. re: greedygirl

            As a Yank living in Britain, I second the Nigel Slater recommendation. I've never made summer pudding, but I have made lots of his other dessert recipes and they've been wonderful.

          2. Discard any recipe that might call for jam. Use ripe, juicy berries. Doing that it will not taste like a jam sandwich which I agree would be awful.

            1. Hey, if you need a good recipe for summer pudding here's a good one:

              Red Fruit Summer Pudding

              Ingredients

              1 lg. loaf white bread, thickly sliced with crusts removed
              3 1/2 lb. washed summer fruit (strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries, and best of red currants)
              1 C. sugar
              lemon zest (unwaxed)
              butter

              Directions

              Prepare fruit by removing any bad berries, etc. Remove crusts from bread. Butter the inside of a 3-pt. pudding basin then line the basin with the bread slices - do not leave any gaps (overlap if necessary.) Press the edges together so the bread forms a complete mold inside the bowl. Reserve about 1/2 lb. raspberries for decoration at end. Place remaining berries with sugar and lemon zest into saucepan. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the fruits are releasing their juices - takes about 5 minutes - don't overcook as you want the fruits to keep their shapes. Reserve about 3/4 C. of the juice, then cool and refrigerate. Pour the remainder of the fruit into the pudding basin - seal the top completely with slices of bread. Cover the bread with a flat plate/saucer that fits snugly inside the basin, then weigh down the plate with a 3-lb. weight (very heavy can or jar will do.)Leave in fridge overnight, the weight will cause the juice to bleed through the bread, staining it red. Gently slide a flexible spatula between the bread and the basin to loosen. Invert the bowl onto a serving dish - it should slide easily into place.

              Add a few drops of red coloring to the 3/4 C. set aside fruit juice, and use this to gently coat any areas that still have a white tinge - pour remainder of juice over entire pudding. Put the reserved rasperberries all around the bottom of the pudding. Serve with real whipped cream and a sprig of mint or vanilla ice cream (optional.)

              Serving Size: 20
              Preparation Time: 30 minutes
              Cooking Time: 5 minutes

              1 Reply
              1. re: Chew on That

                What do you guys think are the best substitute for red currants? They're wonderful but I've never encountered them around here.

                Btw, I had summer pudding once in England and it was amazing. And I was very weirded out when I looked at an actual recipe, because it did just seem like a long and expensive way to create soggy bread. Thanks for inspiring me to try making one.

              2. Just to provide a bit of balance to the conversation, I don't get summer pudding. I don't get it in concept, and I didn't like it when I had it (in England, so take that for what it's worth). It's mushy berries in mushy bread. What exactly would I like about that?

                That's my 2 cents on it.

                5 Replies
                1. re: cyberroo

                  How come the conversation needed balance?

                  Also, did you only have it once or did you have it a few times in different places? Perhaps you just had bad summer pudding. I haven't ever had it, but after reading the recipes in the links, I'm going to give it a shot. Sounds like it could be good to me.

                  1. re: ccbweb

                    I've had summer pudding a few times, both homemade and in restaurants, and I too have to give it a resounding "meh." Even made with a nice brioche-type bread instead of bland supermarket white bread, it just has little flavor interest. I'd be much happier with a nice bowl of fresh berries with maybe a little dusting of sugar or a dash of liqueur or cream. And if you must do an English dessert, what's wrong with a trifle?

                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                      See, this is my fear: jam sandwich/soggy bread. Worst case scenario: a soggy jam sandwich. I think a trifle for a dinner party of four would be a somewhat challenging quantity reduction (trifle bowls are meant to be filled after all), but i appreciate the recommendation. I am toying with the idea of using that Hawaiian sweet bread and seeing how it goes. I've seen enough endorsement and here and elsewhere (Dave Lebovitz is my kitchen idol) that I figure it's worth one shot. And since they're good friends, hopefully they'll be forgiving!

                      1. re: LAcupcake

                        My wife makes trifles every summer and there's only two of us! Either don't fill it all the way, or don't use a trifle bowl.

                        1. re: LAcupcake

                          On the trifle for a smaller crowd, I once made individual trifles for a group of 5 in largish 14oz. goblets. It made a pretty presentation and I finally had a use for these big ol' goblets that had been hanging around in my closet.

                  2. A variation - cook berries as for summer pudding (perhaps adding some rum and/or ginger syrup), but instead of bread, use thin slices of pound cake, alternate layers in a big glass jar, compressing each layer of cake as you add it, leave overnight, serve with whipped cream. I'm sure this has a name, though I don't know it. Good luck.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: valatiekil

                      The name of this should be Decadent & Delicious! Sounds like a winner!

                      1. re: valatiekil

                        thanks for the suggestion! Do you prefer this to the summer pudding made with bread? i'm sure I could balance the cake sweetness by cutting down on berry sugar but in terms of texture, is this version less likely to be really mushy?

                        1. re: LAcupcake

                          A nice plain pound cake shouldn't be overwhelmingly sweet, but I've never thought fresh berries needed too much sugar anyway. The firm compressed cake gets rather dense and certainly moist, but I haven't found it to be mushy or insipid. Whatever you do, as a poster below suggests, definitely try ahead of time - seems like it wouldn't bee too onerous of an experiment to try out several desserts. :)

                        2. re: valatiekil

                          A French friend taught me to make what she called a strawberry charlotte and she compressed it overnight. I've seen charlotte recipes that do not call for compressions but hers did and it's great.
                          We use ladyfingers but why not cake or bread? I think the biggest difference between her recipe and yours is that she layers in creme fraiche mixed with a little sugar and vanilla. We eat it with a coulis. Delicious.

                          This thread has me wanting to make the summer pudding but I balked at the berry prices at the farmer's market yesterday. I'll do it in a couple of weeks when I'll have a houseful so I can't eat most of it myself. Sounds so good.

                          1. re: fern

                            That sounds really good... kind of like the best of both worlds in terms of trifles and puddings. By layering in creme fraiche do you mean molded in a bowl or souffle dish like a traditional summer pudding, or more composed layers in a springform? Can you explain? Thanks!

                            1. re: LAcupcake

                              I think springform would work well but I just use a bowl. I try for fairly neat layers even though it gets a bit mussed in the end. Please note the layering order, the idea is that the berries and cake don't touch, instead both are surrounded by creme.

                              Ladyfingers
                              Creme
                              Berries
                              Creme
                              ladyfingers
                              Creme
                              Berries
                              Creme
                              Ladyfingers

                              Here's how we do it:

                              In a bowl mix together some creme fraiche (or sour cream), sugar, a little vanilla. Place prepared berries in another dish.

                              Next, take a dish of water and add a small amount of vanilla, then, as you're using them, run the ladyfingers quickly through the liquid and line the bottom and sides of your dish with them. (Just a quick dip is best, don't want them soggy).
                              Add a generous layer of the cream and then a berry layer, then another layer of creme, then ladyfingers you've just run through the vanilla water, cream, berries, etc until you finish with a layer of ladyfingers on top (this will become the bottom).

                              Put some plastic wrap right on the top layer, onto that place a plate that just fits inside the bowl rim, and then something heavy (canned goods work well) on the plate to compress the cake. Pop it in the fridge overnight. When ready to serve remove weight and plastic and turn cake out of bowl onto a serving plate.
                              We usually make a coulis and serve it with the slices of cake.

                              It's a simple cake that is flavorful and refreshing on a hot summer night.

                              I'm sure I've said plenty you didn't need to be told but there you are. Hope you make it!

                        3. I think you should test the recipe before busting it out. Or have another dessert choice available.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Angela Roberta

                            I'm thinking that too. just in case i don't like it. I was also considering a key lime pie so maybe i'll make one as a backup.

                          2. Well, I couldn't wait. There's a summer pudding in the fridge as we speak, can hardly wait until tomorrow. I think it may be served for breakfast along with some whipped cream. Actually, it'd probably taste good with my morning yogurt...we'll see. It smells and looks really great.

                            LAcupcake, I'm anxious to hear what you do and how it goes. Very glad you started this thread, I've never made summer pudding so this has been fun.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: fern

                              Serve with creme fraiche. Will balance out the jammyness and if you don't want it so sweet just hold back on the sugar and taste as you go. I like to let a little of the tartness remain. Also I start with a can of blackcurrants. Gets you started with good juices and helps when currants aren't in season. Just put in the pot and add the fresh fruits and bring to a quick boil. I actually once made a summer pudding for Xmas when I hadn't made a Xmas pudding in advance. Only in America, you could never get away with that in Britian.

                            2. Wow, we really loved this! We had it for breakfast yesterday with whipped cream and it was just delicious. I used only raspberries and strawberries and probably just a bit more than the recipe called for, we loved the intense berry flavor. Very fresh and light, lots of flavor, very easy to make, this is going on the favorites list.

                              Thank you LAcupcake, wouldn't have tried it if you hadn't posted about it.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: fern

                                Summer pudding for breakfast! That has to be a first....

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  Try it, you'll like it! :)

                                  I'm one of those cold pizza in the morning folks. There isn't much that I eat that I wouldn't enjoy at breakfast. Cake for breakfast has a long history here. When the kids were young I'd very occasionally surprise them with cake and/or ice cream for breakfast. Back then something that simple thrilled them. Those were the days! Now I'd have to put an iPhone in their cereal bowls to get such a reaction.

                                  Actually, we went out of town for the weekend so I made this on Friday night and we ate it before leaving on Sat am. It was GREAT for breakfast! I even packed the remainder in a cooler and we ate it for an afternoon snack at our weekend destination. Loved it.

                              2. Ok... so I tried it and it was a great success! I originally wanted to do the ladyfinger compromise suggested by Valatiekil below but of course neither grocer I visited carries ladyfingers... or brioche. So I went with the hawaiian bread (that comes in a pie plate). I used a mix of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries and I used a bowl as my mold since I don't have a souffle dish. The Ina Garten and David Lebovitz recipes are nearly identical so I just worked off of them both. The one change I would make to my process is to put a ladelfull of berries in first and then begin the bread layers. Since I used a bowl I lined it with bread first so I had to sort of "touch up" the areas on the outside that didn't receive enough juice. I served it with either vanilla ice cream or whipped cream depending on the diners' preferences and everyone gobbled it up. it kind of reminded me of a cool, molded cobbler/crumble filling. The bread wasn't really there as a taste component but more just holding it all together. Thanks everyone for your input and suggestions... I'm going to make more of these going forward!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: LAcupcake

                                  I found that if you cook the strawberries with the other fruits, they lose their fresh flavor. So slice the strawbs and add them to the pot just as you turn the heat off. That will soften but not cook them. Re redcurrants or blackcurrants: they add a lot to the taste of summer pudding, and you can sometimes find them in U.S. farmers markets if you go early!

                                2. How about a fruit soup, i.e. a tart cherry soup? It's a Hungarian favorite.