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Bread Pudding. In my youth and inexperience, I could not imagine a poorer excuse for a treat. A sickly sweet concoction of soggy bread and stale, dried currents, I viewed it more as punishment than reward. Even smothering it in chocolate sauce could not make it edible (but, at least, you could carefully scrape the chocolate off and have something!). Pouring rum over helped – not the pudding but the eater. Our British friends were always in raptures over this Bread Pudding or that one. My epiphany came one warm July evening. It was the first time we were in London in summer and our friends were talking non-stop about Summer Pudding.
They were calling restaurants before reserving a table to verify that it was being made and checking on the recipe to make sure it was up to snuff. I became intrigued. I was told that it was only made a few weeks out of the year in the height of summer. It was heaven! I was not told it was the dreaded 'bread pudding'. I thank the summer gods that I did not have that information or I never would have tried it…and I would have missed out on summer heaven. This is so good that I, a confirmed, take-no-prisoners, chocoholic, would give up (gasp!) chocolate. Really! It's that good.
1 cup fresh strawberries, quartered
1 cup fresh blueberries (myrtles)
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh red currants
1 cup peeled, finally chopped apple (adds pectin to help set)
1/3 cup sugar
6 – 8 slices white bread, crusts trimmed
Combine apples and sugar in medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar starts to dissolve and apples get tender. Add strawberries and blueberries and cook for about 5 minutes. Add raspberries and currants and cook another 5 minutes. Fruit should be tender and releasing their juice but still holding a bit of shape – may need another few minutes. Drain fruit, reserving the juice separately. Line a medium bowl (4 – 5 cup capacity, 1 – 1 1/4 quart/litre – ideally everything just fits.) with 4 – 5 slices of the trimmed bread, being careful to cover it completely but not overlap. You'll have to cut pieces to fit – kind of like a jigsaw puzzle – or push into shape. Drizzle 1/2 cup of juice over the bread, covering as completely as you can. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Spoon in the drained fruit. Cover the top with another layer of bread – 1 slice, then trim another to fit corners. Drizzle 1/4 cup of juice over all. Refrigerate any remaining juice. Lay cling film over the top and put a plate on the film – directly laying on the pudding and covering as completely as possible without touching the sides of the bowl. Put a weight on the plate – a can of vegetables, box of salt, whatever, about 1 lb. Refrigerate overnight – or, at least, 8 hours. To serve, remove from fridge, remove weight and film and let stand 15 minutes. Run a knife between the pudding and the bowl. Put a serving plate on top and flip it over to unmold on the plate. Use a bit of the reserved juice to cover and 'white' spots on the bread. Serve with Vanilla Yogurt (Healthier Version) or premium Vanilla Ice Cream (Decadent Version), with the remaining juice on the side. Serves 4 – 6. Or serves one, 4 – 6 times……
Note: almost any berry can be used or exchanged – even cherries could be added.