Whether it’s actually the case or not, I still tend to think of the English as a rather restrained lot. Until it comes to dessert, that is. Take the traditional trifle, combining cake, cookies, fruit, pastry cream, and whipped cream in a single confection, or sticky toffee pudding that’s sweet enough for any three regular desserts. There’s also the matter at hand — English-Style Summer Berry Pudding (pictured), in which four types of berries show up in every bite. At their summer peak, each type of ripe, local berry is sublime on its own, but several together just multiplies the effect. Restrained? I think not.
ENGLISH-STYLE SUMMER BERRY PUDDING
Serves 6 to 8
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
3 cups raspberries
½ cup sugar, or more, to taste
4 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 cups blueberries
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup framboise, kirsch, or fresh orange juice
2 cups blackberries
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
10 slices stale farmhouse or other hearty white bread, crusts removed
In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat half of the raspberries, ⅓cup water, 3½ tablespoons sugar, and a pinch of salt, swirling pan occasionally, until sugar dissolves and berries soften, about 4 minutes. Puree in a blender until smooth, about 15 seconds. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, stirring to release as much thin puree as possible. You should have about ¾ cup; whisk in enough water to equal 1 cup and set aside to cool (discard solids). Taste and add sugar, if necessary.
In a large bowl, stir the strawberries and blueberries with the remaining sugar, the lemon juice, framboise, and a pinch of salt. Add the remaining raspberries, blackberries, and the vanilla, gently fold, and set aside for 40 minutes to macerate.
Meanwhile, spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cut a piece of plastic wrap to fit the entire pan with about 4 inches of overhang on both long sides, and line the pan, smoothing the plastic into the corners. Set on a rimmed baking pan.
With a slotted spoon, spread about a third of the berry mixture in the loaf pan, leaving juices in the bowl. Arrange a layer of bread over the berries. Pour about a third of the raspberry puree evenly over the bread. Repeat the layering twice more with the remaining berries, bread, and raspberry puree, topping the last layer of bread with the last third of the berry puree and the juices from the bowl. Cover loosely with the overhanging plastic wrap and press the pudding to compact it. Set another baking pan over the pudding, weight it down with heavy cans or jars, and refrigerate for at least 8 and up to 24 hours.
Remove the weights and pan and unwrap. Invert the pudding onto a serving platter and gently remove the loaf pan and plastic wrap. Slice and serve at once.
BLACK AND BLUE BREAD PUDDING
Serves 8 to 12
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
1 1- to 1¼-pound loaf challah, cut into ¾-inch cubes (about 20 cups)
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
3 cups blueberries
3 cups blackberries
¼ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
5½ cups half-and-half
4 large eggs plus 4 large egg yolks
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Softened butter for the pan, plus 2 tablespoons, cut into small bits
With the racks in the middle and lower-middle positions, heat the oven to 325 degrees. Toast the bread cubes on 2 large rimmed baking sheets, tossing occasionally, until light golden, about 30 minutes, rotating pans after 15 minutes. Remove bread from oven and cool (leave oven on, with 1 rack in middle position).
In a very large bowl, stir the sugar and lemon zest. In another large bowl, gently mix the blueberries, blackberries, and 1½ tablespoons of the lemon sugar, and set aside. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of the lemon sugar, the brown sugar, and the cinnamon, and set aside. In the bowl with the remaining lemon sugar, whisk the half-and-half, whole eggs and yolks, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until uniform. Add the bread, stir, and set aside until the bread is saturated, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Gently stir in the berries.
Generously grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with butter, add the bread mixture, and spread it in the pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the surface and dot with 2 tablespoons butter. Set the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until slightly puffed, just set, and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes, rotating after 20 minutes. Set pudding on a rack, cool to room temperature, and serve.
6 cups raspberries
2/3 cup sugar, or more, to taste
1½ cups heavy cream, cold
½ cup plain Greek-style yogurt or sour cream
Reserve about ¾ cup beautiful berries. In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat 3 cups raspberries, 6 tablespoons sugar, and a pinch of salt, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and berries soften, about 4 minutes. In a blender, puree about 15 seconds. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, stirring to release as much berry puree as possible. You should have about 1½ cups puree; set aside to cool (discard solids). Taste and add sugar, if necessary. Reserve ¾ cup puree.
In a medium bowl, mix the remaining raspberries, 1 tablespoon sugar, and a pinch of salt, and set aside to macerate. After 10 minutes, very lightly crush berries with a spatula (leave some whole). Stir in ¾ cup raspberry puree.
Meanwhile, with a standing or electric mixer, beat the heavy cream and remaining sugar to medium-firm peaks. Add the yogurt or sour cream and continue beating to stiff peaks. Add the berry mixture and fold to combine partially (leave some red streaks in the cream). Spoon the fool into glass serving dishes, garnish each with some of the reserved whole berries, and serve, passing the reserved raspberry puree separately.
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