I know I sound like I have the coping skills of an infant, and I’m okay with this as well. These are not times for pride; I have no expectations that I will come away from this summer looking like any kind of champion. I am not enough of a martyr to grin and bear it, and I am fortunate enough to be friends with people who have no expectation that anyone should.
Being friends with people of the same mind as you about this insipid heat doesn’t just come in hand when you need sweaty brow empathy, it is especially helpful when you still crave delicious, home cooked food but don’t wish to “cook” yourself in the process. My favorite geek/foodie pointed me to a Cook’s Illustrated Summer Berry Pudding yesterday involving only 5 minutes of light stovetop warming, and I thought, “why, I do deserve something sweet for my suffering, don’t I?”
And so do you. I have no experience with summer puddings, never having eaten them growing up or even seeing a recipe for one before yesterday. The only relevance this has is that I have nothing to compare the results with. The fruit is spectacular, the light cooking and the ruby juicy was impossibly delicious, I could not stop slurping it up with a spoon, which is probably why my last layer of bread was only 97 percent soaked this morning, not that we care. The bread, however, well, I’m not sure if soggy bread, even bread saturated with such a wondrous thing as berry sauce, is my thing. I might try this next time with brioche or slices of angel food or pound cake, or skip the bread and serve the saucy fruit over a biscuit, shortcake-style. I would never deprive it of lightly sweetened and softly whipped cream (except for this morning, when impatience, shockingly, won out).
As for this glamorous loaf, I’ll eat it, if I must. (Cue the tiniest violins.) For breakfast this morning, perhaps as an afternoon snack later on. It’s a tough job, I’m sure you understand, but I’ll rally myself for the cause, take one for the team. Boundless self-sacrifice is just another of my gifts to you.
Summer Berry Pudding
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, July 1999
Serves 6 to 8
CI’s tips: Stale the bread for this recipe by leaving it out overnight. Otherwise, put the slices on a rack in a single layer into a 200-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes, turning them once halfway through. If you use challah, the second choice for bread, cut it into 1/2-inch-thick slices. If neither potato bread nor challah is available, use good-quality white sandwich bread with a dense, soft texture. To ensure that this larger pudding unmolds in one piece, use a greased loaf pan lined with plastic wrap. Whipped cream is the perfect accompaniment to summer pudding.
2 pints fresh strawberries rinsed, hulled, and sliced 1 pint fresh raspberries
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 pint fresh blackberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 lemon
8 slices potato bread (stale), challah, or other good-quality white bread
1. Heat strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and sugar in large nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until berries begin to release their juice and sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in lemon juice; let cool to room temperature.
2. While berries are cooling, spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with vegetable cooking spray. Following illustrations below, remove crusts from bread slices and trim them to fit in a single layer in the loaf pan (it will take approximately 2 1/2 slices to form one layer). Line the loaf pan with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap lies flat against the surface of the loaf pan, leaving no air space.
3. Place the loaf pan on a rimmed cookie sheet and use a slotted spoon to place about 2 cups of fruit into the bottom. Lightly soak enough bread slices for one layer in juice and place on top of fruit. Repeat with two more layers of fruit and bread. Top with remaining juices, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and weight with a second cookie sheet and several heavy cans. Refrigerate puddings for at least 8 and up to 24 hours.
4. Remove weights, cookie sheet, and plastic wrap. To unmold, invert onto serving platter. Lift off loaf pan; remove plastic wrap lining and serve.