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The Ultimate Summer Dessert is Made with White Bread

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Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52—with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: Alice literally wrote the book on alternative flours, but in this classic three-ingredient berry dessert, she is adamant about using white bread. Just go with it.

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Summer pudding is luscious and juicy and hard to resist—a perfect dish to make when berries are ripe and abundant. If only people would give it a try! I know that the title sounds just fine, so it must be a quick read of the recipe that's the problem. Maybe white bread soaked in sweet berry juices just doesn’t sound yummy. Or maybe (these days) white bread is on your politically suspect list.

But stay with me! This seriously good dessert belongs in your repertoire; it’s also ultra-seasonal, easy to make, and quite pretty. Another bonus: It should be made at least 1 and up to 3 days ahead, so there’s never any last minute pressure.

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This cherished recipe was given to me —dictated actually—by the late Helen Gustafson, once an actress, writer, hostess, and the original tea maven (even before tea sommeliers were a thing…) at Chez Panisse. I may have tasted Helen’s summer pudding for the first time about 20 years ago at one of her intimate tea parties where I also renewed my acquaintance with Julia Child’s sister, Dorothy Cousins. If summer pudding was good enough for Helen and Dorothy, it’s good enough for anyone!

Now that I’ve tempted you to try your first summer pudding, there are just couple things: Don’t even think about substituting whole-wheat for the white bread (because I tried it and it’s just not right, and definitely not delicious). Similarly, cake is not a better idea than the white bread either! 

Helen served her pudding with lightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream; I serve mine with rose water whipped cream. It’s fantastic either way. 

Helen's Summer Pudding with Rose Cream

From Pure Dessert (Aristan 2007)

Serves 5 to 6

For the pudding:

3 1/2 to 4 cups ripe berries such as raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, and a handful of red currants if they are available
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided, or to taste
3 to 4 slices decent white sandwich bread with a tight crumb (nothing fluffy or crusty or with an open grain)

For the whipped cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon rose water, or more to taste

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Pick up a copy of Alice's James Beard Award-winning book Flavor Flours, which includes nearly 125 recipes—from Double Oatmeal Cookies to Buckwheat Gingerbread—made with wheat flour alternatives like rice flour, oat flour, corn flour, sorghum flour, and teff (not only because they're gluten-free, but for an extra dimension of flavor, too). 

Photos by Mark Weinberg


See more from the illustrated biographies of 16.5 global desserts