Berrylicious Summer Pudding

What does summertime mean to you?  I think of the lovely long warm nights, sipping Gin & Diet Tonic on a shaded patio somewhere, trying (and failing) to make it up to my family’s cottage on the weekend, and popping by my parent’s house to pillage their fruit and vegetables as often as possible.  I love the way that one long, hot day in the summer will encourage a tiny little 2″ zucchini to reach monstrous proportions.  I find it so very exciting to check every day and see what is luscious and ripe, and what will benefit from some patience and a few more days on the vine.   That, and I have a complete love hate relationship with raspberry bushes which I can’t help exploring, year after year.   

I want to think that I enjoy raspberry picking.  I like to think of myself as a Raspberry Picking Type Of Person.  The trouble is that raspberry picking is very different in theory than in practice.  After an hour in the bush I look like I’ve been attacked by a wolverine, I have 17 new bug bites that I’m already starting to scratch until they bleed, there are smushed berries on whatever article of clothing I’m wearing which used to be white, and all that my efforts and endeavours have managed to yield is ONE (1) cup of wee tiny berries, half of which I will discover to be rotten by the time I get them home.  And yet, time and time again, I find myself back in the raspberry patch.  Hey, that sounds like a euphemism for…ahem…well, never mind. 

Now remember that all that I ever get is, at maximum yield, about a cup of berries.  This is not enough to make into a pie.  This is not enough for a crumble.  This is just barely enough to sprinkle on your cereal in the morning, or for somebody else to have sprinkled on his if he wakes up first.  Not naming names, of course.  Anyway, I wanted to make something with these berries, and I had a pint of blueberries left over from the weekend (full of antioxidants, they are!) so I decided to make some fabulously cheap and easy summer pudding.

Note:  ‘Pudding’ is a bit of a misnomer.  It’s not really a pudding as much as a super fast berry pie in a glorified toast shell, but that sounds far less glamorous.  So, PUDDING IT IS!

Berrylicious Summer Pudding

Time:  15 minutes prep + 45 minutes baking

Feeds 6 average eaters, or 3 incredibly greedy ones

  • 1 pint blueberries (the usual container)
  • 1/2 pint raspberries (the usual TINY container)
  • 1/2 cup berry jam (Strawberry?  Raspberry?  I don’t care)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter at room temperature *
  • 1 loaf of cheap preservative laden white bread **
  • Vanilla ice cream to serve
*Note:  I never said this was healthy, but it certainly is delicious.
** Another Note:  I like to pick my battles.  Despite the butter there is very little sugar in this dish and my white bread is actually a whole wheat white bread.  I don’t know if that’s really valid nutritionally or not, but it does appease some of my bad food guilt.
This is a very easy recipe, so I’m going to have to draw it out a bit.  Sorry ’bout your luck.  Start with the bread!  Take it out of the bag and spread it out on the counter.  Take it in stacks of 3 slices, and cut off the crusts.  There’s no need to channel McDreamy on this one, because if you have a bit of crust here and there it gives the end product a rustic visual interest and some textural variance.  Ooh, but don’t use the heels.  I know they’re good for you but…well, just don’t.  
Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Keep the bread spread out on the counter, uncovered, while you mix some berries.  This is not just laziness and a penchant for disorder, I promise.  It is exceptionally difficult to spread butter in an even coat onto soft, fresh bread.  However, when it dries out just a smidge it’s worlds easier.  By no means am I suggesting that you use stale bread or toast it (perish the thought!) but a few minutes in the open air does us all a world of good.  For the berries, grab a medium to large size bowl and pile them in with all of their jewel toned glory.  Squeeze half a lemon in.
Sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.
Melt your jam in the microwave until it’s runny, and let it cool for a minute before adding it to the berries.  You don’t want to steam them, after all.  I used strawberry jam with no sugar and preservatives added, and it’s still totally sweet enough.
Stir it all together.  And…you’re done with the berries.  
Find some ramekins and butter them. Now, let’s talk for a minute about your ramekins.  It doesn’t matter what size they are, really, because this isn’t a cake which needs to rise or something eggy that you need to cook evenly.  I have cute little blue and yellow ramekins that are 6 and 8 ounces and I fully intended to use make a half dozen delectable little desserts.  However, you may have been privy to one of my earlier rants about how we’re moving soon and most of my worldly belongings are packed into boxes in the garage.  Ergo, I used Mike’s ramekins which are a 16 ounce size.  Perfect for a chicken pot pie, but I felt that they were a bit too big for Berrylicious Summer Pudding
I was wrong, they were great.  I was able to increase the fruit to bread ratio and even though you would THINK that it’s too big for each person to eat their own, uhhhhm…..well…….let’s just say that we took that theory for a ride and weren’t disappointed.  The point is that you can use what you’ve got, but if you make it too big (for example, in a large sized Corning ware) it’s going to be a bit harder to unmold and it won’t hold together as well.  I suppose that a bit of moderation once in a while is necessary.  So I guess what I’m really trying to say is:  Find some ramekins and butter them.
Thoroughly butter one side of each slice of bread.  After the ramekins and my bread were all thoroughly buttered there was still about 1 tbsp of butter left from the stick, and I’m feeling rather virtuous about that for god only knows what reason.  Despite the fact that I’m only showing you a few pieces of bread right now, I buttered them all and used all but 1 slice and the heels of the loaf that I bought when I made these. As for that last slice – well, waiting 45 minutes for something to cook can be a very, very long time.
Because of the size of the ramekins, 1 piece of bread was a good fit for the bottom of the container. Please be sure to always place your bread BUTTER SIDE DOWN.  It will adhere to the bakeware because butter loves butter almost as much as I do.
Cut the remaining slices of bread in half, and place these around the ramekin until if is a fully sealed shell.  Be sure to overlap the pieces JUST SLIGHTLY.  You don’t want them on top of each other, but you also don’t want gaps.  Press it down just slightly, especially at the seams, but there is no need to be heavy handed.
Fill up your adorable little bread shells with the berry mix.  Each should be full pretty much up to the top.
Cap your summer puddings off with another layer of bread on top.  Be sure that you place this BUTTER SIDE UP, and facing away from the berries.  If you need to cut some of your bread segments even smaller then do so, because you want every nook and cranny to be sealed.  Press this down just slightly.  Put your delightful little parcels onto a baking sheet (in case there are any drips.  Molten berry is hell to clean off the bottom of your oven) and pop it in.
Bake these for about 45 minutes, depending on size and the heat of your oven.  The tops should be golden brown and the berries likely bubbled up here and there which is totally fine by me.
Let it cool for about 10 minutes, and then flip it over onto a waiting plate.  It will come out really easily with no sticking because of the butter.  You can dust it with powdered sugar at this point, and frankly I would have except that I couldn’t find it….otherwise, pile on a few scoops of vanilla ice cream and you’re ready to go!
This is a bit of an old fashioned dessert, somewhat depression era really, but utterly delicious and so easy to make it’s embarrassing.  I know that in this picture it doesn’t look quite as delectable as it was, fresh from the oven and still piping hot.  Sigh.  I should have had icing sugar, THEN you would have thought it was gorgeous!
Music to cook to:  Melt Your Heart by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins.