In the US, I would venture to guess that most people think about pies made with summer fruits before they start to think about puddings with them. Summer puddings are a great way to make use of fresh berries, and while I will admit that I still won’t turn down a slice of pie, a pudding is an easy dessert well worth keeping on hand.
I like to think of summer puddings as no-bake bread puddings. Summer pudding is a traditional British dessert that is made by layering slices of white bread with berries and syrup or juice. The dessert is created in a dish, pressed down tightly to help the bread absorb all that liquid, and then chilled until ready to serve. The result is a fresh-tasting and flavorful dessert that isn’t too sweet, showcases your berries and is perfect for serving with loads of whipped cream.
You can really use any kind of berries – including frozen – in a summer pudding, but since the whole point is to take advantage of fresh berries, I’d recommend saving this recipe for summertime. I used all blueberries to make this pudding, cooking them in a bit of sugar to ensure that they were sweet before layering them with the bread rounds. White bread tends to give the best result because it is so tender, but I’ve used brioche and challah in puddings with good results, too. Since these are individual puddings, use a cookie or biscuit cutter that is about the same size around as your ramekins/serving dishes to cut the bread into slices for layering.
The pudding is moist, tender and fruity. It is also very light – and very low in fat compared to shortcakes and pies. The puddings will keep well in your refrigerator for two or three days if you want to make these ahead of serving time, or if you simply want to make a batch to enjoy over a couple of days yourself. The recipe doubles and triples easily, and if you have any leftover berries, you can always save the syrup and pour it onto ice cream or pancakes to use it up.
Blueberry Summer Puddings
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1/8 tsp salt
8 slices white sandwich bread (approx)
In a medium saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar, water and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Cook for 3-4 more minutes, until berries are softened. Strain berries and reserve juice.
Take out four 6 or 8-oz ramkeins or other small bowls.
Use a biscuit cutter, round cookie cutter or the top of a glass to cut circles of bread that are just about the same size as your ramekins (results will vary; you may need extra bread!).
Pour about 1 tbsp of berry juice into the bottom of each ramekin. Top with a slice of bread. Pour another tbsp of juice and add about 1 tbsp berries, followed by another layer of bread. Keep going until you have four layers of bread in each ramekin.
Cover each ramekin with a piece of plastic wrap and press down very firmly to help the juice absorb into the bread. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, until ready to serve.
Serve with whipped cram and more fresh blueberries.