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!
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.
Helen preferred Northridge English Muffin Toasting Bread and when I can’t find that, I use Country Buttermilk or Country Potato.
Grease a one-quart bowl (5 to 6 inches across the top and 3 to 4 inches deep makes a good shape) and line it with a piece of plastic wrap long enough to hang over on two sides, opposite, pressing it into the bowl as smoothly as possible.
Cut the crusts from the bread. Use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the bread into triangles. Line the inside of the bowl with the wedges, placing the narrow ends in the bottom. Use wet fingers to fit the bread pieces very snuggly together with no spaces in between. Set the lined bowl and remaining bread aside.
In a non-reactive saucepan large enough to hold the berries in about 1 1/2 layers, combine the berries and 1/2 cup sugar.
Heat the berries, turning them gently until they begin to throw off their juices. Do not boil: The aim is not to cook the berries but only to warm them and coax forth their juices. You may taste and adjust the sugar but Helen advised me to “stay on the tart side.”
Spoon the berries and juices into the lined bowl. Fit more bread on top to cover the berries. Cover with the overhanging plastic wrap.
Place a saucer small enough to fit inside the bowl on top of the wrap and weight it with a large can of beans or similarly heavy object. Set the bowl on a larger plate in case juices overflow.
Refrigerate at least over night, but one or two days is even better, as the pudding is best when the bread is fully soaked with berry juices. [Editors' note: We made the pudding on Friday evening and ate it on Monday afternoon.]
When you're almost ready to serve, make the whipped cream: Whip the cream in a chilled bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and rose water. When it is nearly as stiff as you like it, taste and adjust the sweetness and flavor with a little extra sugar and/or drops of rose water as necessary—then finish whipping the cream.
To serve, unwrap and invert the bowl on a serving platter with a rim to catches any juices.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).