Saturday 14 June 2008
Summer Pudding gets ticks in all the right boxes. It's an oxymoronic combination of a luxurious overabundance of delicious things, but where none of them individually is actually very luxurious. And it does seem to be something which has retained its place in the seasonal calendar - I still associate it with a summer glut of soft fruit, and it hasn't yet suffered from season-slip and started to appear on menus year-round, as with so many other dishes (mostly to the detriment of their quality, along the way). It is phenomenally easy to make, presents well, and is gloriously self-indulgent to eat......
Surprisingly - and maybe because it is so easy to make - it doesn't get much coverage from many of the greats. Mrs Beeton is quite vague on the subject, and merely refers to the need for ...'a pound of stewed soft fruit...' for the filling , without suggesting what the fruit might be, or even specifying how much liquid should be used in constructing the pudding. Very important, that last point, as you don't want the end result to be either too dry or too wet. Frances Bissell, while not bothering with a 'red' summer pudding, gives a recipe for a white one - gooseberries and white currants, rather than raspberries and redcurrants - which sounds interesting, but definitely for earlier in the summer than now. There are also two schools of thought about the shape of the finished pudding - either domed or flat; arguably, a flat version allows the pudding to be weighted evenly, and it also looks less as though it's pretending to be a zucotta!
Having done a fairly thorough trawl of the different methods which are out there, my preferred version is as follows:
For a Pudding 20 cm in diameter (enough for eight portions):
Ingredients: 8 oz red (or black) currants; 12 oz pitted Cherries; 8 oz Raspberries; 1/4 pint Water; 5 oz Sugar; 15 (or so) medium slices of White Bread, crusts removed*.
* The best kind of bread for this, I find, is a Swiss Bread called Zopf, which is made with a butter-enriched dough and is midway between bread and brioche. Brioche proper is structurally too weak to use in summer pudding, as it has a tendency to fall to pieces when soaked in the fruit juices.
1. Butter (or Trennwax) a 20 cm cake tin.
2. Combine the Fruit, Water, and Sugar in a small pan; bring to a simmer, and stir, simmering, until the Sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and leave to cool. Separate the Fruit from the syrup.
3. Cut the Bread into triangles and rectangles, in order to be able to line the base and the sides of the cake tin, making as perfect a fit as you can manage. Brush the Bread lining with a little syrup once the base and sides are completely covered.
4. Spoon half of the Fruit on top of the Bread, and carefully pour onto it a third of the reserved syrup. Use half of the remaining Bread to make a layer over the fruit, and cover this in turn with the rest of the fruit, and pour another third of the syrup over the top. Finish the construction with a final layer of Bread, and the last of the syrup.
5. Place the cake tin in a dish with a rim - necessary to catch all the liquid which will inevitably ooze out - cover with clinngfilm, and then place a weighted* plate on top, of about the same diamater as the top of the pudding. Leave like his for an hour or so, then remove the weights, and refrigerate overnight.
6. Invert and unmould to serve, accompanied by delicious thick cream
* For wieghts, I generally use my blind-baking weights, poured into a shallow plastic container.