summer berry pudding

Remember when I said that I have a theory about the weather, that it is mocking you and waiting for you to snap? Well, this is me throwing my hands in the air. Mock away, I say, have your fun. Just give me my back an unsticky neck and the energy level that comes with not being wiped out, the rest of the evening cancelled, after a 1.3 mile walk home.

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.

summer berry pudding

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?”

cooking down the berriessoupy deliciousness

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).

summer berry pudding

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.

five minutes later

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.

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42 comments on summer berry pudding

  1. I really, really want some of this without having to make it. It looks so good, but I’m way too hot and sweaty to contemplate even the slightest bit of cooking. Wahhhh!
    So I will enjoy looking and imagining the taste sensation. I think it would be wonderful with a slice of homemade angel food cake.

  2. Molly

    Angel food cake would be PERFECT. I love soggy angel food cake!

    Anyway I freaking hate this weather. It is preventing me from going to see Paul Taylor for free at the Lincoln Center bandshell, because I seriously think I may die of heatstroke if I go.

  3. catherino

    I’ve made this in muffin tins (lined with plastic wrap) for individual servings and it turned out just beautifully. Thanks for reminding me of this recipe!

  4. Tea

    Tiny violins cued indeed. If it makes you feel any better, I moaned and complained and considered moving back to nice and foggy San Francisco the one day it hit 98 here in Seattle (without even any humidity, that’s how much a wimp I am). I couldn’t get a lick of work done, I was too busy suffering.

    I think anyone who survives a NY summer IS a champion (and I’d want biscuits with my lovely berry sauce).

  5. Dear Deb, how did you manage to get fruit on the outside of your summer pudding? I am so confused. In my experience, the bread and fruit should meld together into one glorious concoction, hence no stale-soaked-bread concerns. Check out David Lebovitz’s recipe and photo. But at least I say you always deserve something sweet.

  6. I’ve never had summer pudding either, mostly because I’d rather just eat the fruit than risk having some soggy bread ruin it all. Of course, I’ve wondered if I’ve been missing something amazing… I think I’d rather have it over some angel food cake. It *is* beautiful though.

  7. Hmmmmm…I’m sitting here making peanut butter ice cream (or rather my ice-cream maker is making peanut butter ice cream) and I’m thinking a scoop of it on a slice of your summer berry pudding could be the ultimate PB&J!

  8. Super beautiful/delicious photos…and WOW that fork is spotless!! The plate seems a bit incongruous though…was it licked clean after the shot?
    I’d use angel food or pound cake too.

  9. Ah-ha. I went back and read the recipe, and I see the folks at CI have managed to mess up a fairly simple classic dessert. When making summer pudding, the whole mold is lined with bread, and then filled with fruit. So that when you unmold it the outer bread layer is really just a shell for all this smushed together wonderful fruit. Sorry, this sounds horribly nit-picky of me, but it’s such a wonderful dish and it made me sad to read you were so meh about it, and I just wanted you to love summer pudding too.

    1. Sonia

      Mercedes has it exactly right. CI was wrong – you just line a pudding basin with slices of white sandwich-type bread, use the juice from your lightly-cooked fruit to soak the bread, then fill the basin with the fruit, and a layer of bread on the top. I usually omit the strawberries because they don’t break down as easily as the other berries. (Speaking from my English growing-up background). Weight the basin down and put in the fridge overnight, serve with big dollops of whipped cream.

  10. You know, the one time I made summer pudding I was similarly underwhelmed – the bread part just wasn’t what I was expecting and I always thought if I made it again, it’d need to be something richer and sweeter. Angel food cake sounds great, though I’d fear it’d disintegrate after all that soaking. I’ve always wondered about pound cake… or a plain sweet bread of some kind.

  11. I’m sorry. Your pictures are always so beautiful and make me want to eat things I normally think I don’t like (such as zucchini), but that looks like some sort of carnage from a Rob Zombie movie. (Not your fault! Just, ew…)

  12. Celeste

    I really like birthday cake that is soaked with melted ice cream, although I think the frosting is really what makes it sing. I doubt I would like wet bread, though. This would probably be good with day old muffins, especially lemon poppyseed. Mmmmmm.

  13. This is exactly a dessert i’ve been hunting for all summer. of course, this weather we’re having today, makes me want to go back to Charleston, heat, humidity and all, and not sit in front of a desk on a rainy Friday morning. But something about calling in sick today, after a week of vacation, didn’t ring true ;-)

  14. yes – you are so very right. i made this too and just posted on it. using david lebovitz’s recipe, no less. same thing for me. gooey bread? pass… the berries were spectacular – i was drinking the juices too. i did line the sides which when unmolded made for a big wow. but in the end it was just more soggy bread…
    but that didn’t stop us from cleaning our plates. anyway – i’m wondering how this same thing would be lined with a butter pound cake… now we might be talking…

  15. deb

    Thanks Sue — I left a comment. I do need to be linked/credited for any pictures/text pulled from this site, so hopefully that message will come through clearly.

  16. When I searched for a summer berry pudding photo the above photo came up without any attributes. I have given Deb the proper accreditation for her beautiful work, as I do with any photos that I use and know the source.

  17. anonymous

    Looks wonderful!!! I clicked on the link for your favorite foodie and it linked to a microsoft page???? Where do I go from that page to get to your “favorite geek/foodie” Thanks!!!!

  18. katerina

    As British food usually comes in for ridicule, I feel the need to point out that this is the traditional British summer dessert. Can be made with any berries, but the classic version uses blackcurrants and redcurrants, which are very hard to find in the U.S. That version is the best.

    1. deb

      There was actually a ban on growing currants in the U.S. until a few years ago, when many states started to fight it. This is why currants used to be hard to come by — in NYC, this is no longer the case.

  19. purpleobsessive

    I don’t really know much about pudding but this doesn’t look much like it. So what do you mean by pudding? All I know is traditional jiggly pudding or the classic white or black pudding ( popular irish breakfast sausages).

    1. deb

      This is the way it has always been made — white bread sliced and soaked with berry juices. It’s British in origin, from the early 20th century.

  20. Philippa


    This isn’t really a classic recipe for this – as Mercedes says, it should be made in a pudding mould (a pint basin, maybe, or you could use individual ones if you wanted) and the bread is just the outer shell for the fruit filling. There really shouldn’t be so much soggy bread! For purpleobsessive, “pudding” means a sweet course at the end of a meal.

    Deb, please make it again with a British recipe, so that you can try the proper, delicious version! Good quality white bread – not too much of it. Currants in the filling as well as the other berries, if you can find them. And, to serve, a blob of clotted cream.

  21. Janet

    I make this using store-bought angel food cake instead of bread, and the result is a dessert with such an intense sweet berry flavor and a moist, cakey (NOT soggy) texture that friends and family always rave about it. It truly is one of my favorite desserts. I think it is so much better made with angel food cake that you really should put a note in the recipe to that effect, Deb, to tempt more people to try it. Maybe it’s not as “classic” that way, but it’s truly scrumptious!

  22. Claudette Spiers

    Being a brit I can tell you that a proper summer pudding is a delight to eat…it is possible that your bread availability is the problem. Iit should be plain white flour bread which is stale. You need to leave it at least 12-14 hours. Brioche or sponge or angel cake might taste nice but won’t work. It should be made in a pudding bowl and the bread should totally encase the fruit not be Layered with it. So line the pudding basin with cling film then bread overlapping if neçessary andmaking sure there are no gaps. Fill with the fruit then cut more bread tocover the top. Puut a sheet of cling film and then a saucer that is just smaller than the top of the basinand press down and then weight and put in the fridge. Step 4 is right and you should have a beautifully pink marbled pudding and the bread should not taste like soggy bread. You can vary the fruit too.

    1. Nett

      So, just bread around the outside, none in the middle? It doesn’t seem like that would hold together. It’s been two years so I hope you answer.

      1. Sonia

        Nett: It does hold together, after you weight it down and refrigerate overnight. Cake gives you a different thing altogether, more like trifle than summer pudding.