The Brits arrive usually around Bastille Day for their annual three week visit to The Lake. Their arrival is always the highlight of the summer as they bring their acerbic wit and charming daughters. Mrs. Brit comes armed with her encyclopedic noggin filled with recipes. Late night dinners consist of spiced and herb infused organic roasts inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi followed by a caloric pudding doused in cream. The Brits often refer to their desserts as puddings. Whether it is called pudding or dessert, it does not matter. English Summer Pudding is the delicious end to a brilliant meal.
English Summer Pudding
*Summer Pudding should be made with black currants but due to a federal ban from the early 20th century, Americans are unfamiliar with currants.
1 loaf homemade style white bread, such as challah or brioche, crusts removed and cut on the diagonal
1 1/2 pounds assorted summer fruit, such as: blueberries, strawberries, red currants, black currants, red or golden raspberries, and/or small plums, rinsed well and drained, large fruit (strawberries/plums) halved and quarters
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Framboise, Port, Triple Sec or lemon juice
Line a large bowl (about 6 to 8 cup capacity) with plastic wrap. Arrange the diagonal halves, overlapping, into the bottom and up the sides of the bowl.
In a large saucepan, heat the fruit, sugar and alcohol and cook until the fruit is tender and beginning to burst, but still holds its shape, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the fruit into the bread-lined bowl, and spoon most of the juices over the fruit. Reserve the remaining cooking juices.
Top the fruit with a flat layer of the remaining bread, so that the fruit is completely covered. Cover with the plastic wrap and place a plate over the top. Weigh down the plate with several cans and refrigerate overnight or at least eight hours. To serve, remove the weights and plate and unwrap. Place a large serving plate on top of the bowl and gently invert. Shake gently to release the pudding onto the plate and remove the plastic wrap. Spoon the reserved fruit juices over the top and serve with cream. (Brits never whip cream, they prefer to pour cream slowly over their portion.)
*A note on black currants: In the early 20th century the cultivation of currants was banned. It was thought that currants carried cronartium ribicola, a rust fungus that was considered lethal to pine trees. The federal ban on growing currants was shifted to jurisdiction of individual states in 1966, and was lifted in New York State in 2003. As a result, currant growing is making a comeback in New York, Vermont, Connecticut and Oregon. However, several statewide bans still exist including Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Frozen black currants can be ordered from CurrantC.