If you've never had Summer Pudding, now's the time. It couldn't be easier to make -- you just line a bowl with some white bread (stale is fine), fill it with berries and a little sugar, top off with more bread and weight it down overnight. The result is the essence of summer: the bread absorbs the juices and melts into a sweet, fragrant sponge, and when you cut into the pudding, the berries tumble out like so many rubies and sapphires. And, like many of the best British traditions, this pudding ascribes to the "waste not, want not" philosophy -- old bread and a minimal number of additional ingredients make this a snap to shop for. —Merrill Stubbs
6 to 8
mixed berries (I used a mix of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
1/2 to 2/3 cups
sugar, depending on the sweetness of your berries
loaf dense white sandwich bread (I like Pepperidge farm)
Put the berries and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium low heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Taste (careful, it's hot!) and add more sugar if it doesn't seem sweet enough. Let the mixture come to a simmer and cook gently for about 5 minutes, until the berries are still whole but have released a significant amount of juice. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Select a 4 to 5 cup bowl or round mold. Trim the crusts from the bread and line the bowl with one layer of bread, cutting the bread into pieces and fitting them in like a puzzle (see photos above). Carefully spoon about half of the cooled berries and their juices into the bread-lined bowl. Arrange another layer of bread over the berries and then spoon the rest of the berries over the bread layer. Add a final layer of bread to the top, taking it all the way to edges of the bowl so the juices are sealed in.
Cut a round of cardboard to fit inside the bowl (it should be able to sink down a few inches) and cover it with foil. Lay this on top of the pudding and weight it down with something heavy (I used two small cast iron skillets stacked on top of a shallow bowl turned upside-down). Refrigerate the pudding at least overnight, and for up to 36 hours. Remove the weights and the cardboard and carefully turn it out onto a serving platter. Cut it into slices at the table, passing around the cream to drizzle over the top.