Summer is a tricky thing in San Francisco. A morning in July here often feels like a morning in February, much to the consternation of shivering tourists. We grab what sun we can two days here, three days there, until the fog rolls in and we’re grabbing our sweaters and pashminas instead, shrugging our pasty shoulders all the while. If one never leaves the City, one has but few clues as to what life is like on the hot, sticky Outside. And I like that just fine.
I always know it’s summer when I see berries flooding the markets. I grab baskets of them– strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, snozberries– and challenge myself to eat them all before they rot in my fridge, which happened last year, much to my shame. I decorate my cereal with them, never quite looking as well-placed as on the cereal boxes I never buy. I pretend I’m putting them in the wood chipper as I drop them into my blender to make smoothies. I sprinkle them over ice cream. I eat them out of hand.
If I want to put a little effort (and I do mean little) into doing something with berries, this year, I’m making berry pudding, one of the easiest and reasonably healthiest desserts around. If I were forced to give this dish human form, I would vote for Betty White. Rose Nyland-sweet, Sue Ann Nivens-tart, and just about as quick and clever as all Miss White’s snappy answers on The Match Game. Put a little whipped cream on her and she’s good to go. She’s always good to go.
This is a recipe that is wonderfully simple in both preparation and outlook. Berries in, berries out. I was going to say it was easy- breezy but, unless eating raw fruits has a certain effect on your G.I. tract, it is merely easy. The only real time involved is the time the berries and bread must spend in the refrigerator, getting to know each other.
Many of the recipes I’ve read for Berry Pudding call for the berries to be cooked with sugar. I strongly object. Not to the sugar, mind you, but to cooking the berries. One might as well be using frozen fruit, and that, my friends, is a capital “C” crime in my book– at least in high season.
I might suggest letting your berries ripen a bit before making them into pudding. They will thank you for it.
• 1/2 cup strawberries, chopped
• 1/2 cup blueberries, whole
• 1/2 cup raspberries, whole
• 1/2 cup blackberries, whole
• 2 tablespoons sugar, taste the berries to determine their sweetness before adding sugar. Adjust accordingly.
• 8 one half-inch slices of white bread, brioche, or other neutral starchy vehicle, cut to the shape of whatever molds one is using.
• A splash of complementary booze (cassis, blackberry brandy, Cointreau, etc.) Complementary as in “will complement the flavor of the berries”, not complimentary, as in “free”. Of course, if your alcohol is both complementary and complimentary, I say bravo to you.
• A pinch of salt
Wash berries well, but gently. Chop strawberries to the approximate size of the other berries. Place all berries into large bowl and sprinkle with sugar, salt, and booze. Let sit for five or so minutes.
After the berries have macerated a bit, lightly crush them. I feel I was a bit too excited when it came time to inflict harm upon mine. Stir.
Cover the bottoms of your molds with your most attractive bits of berry, since this will be the top of the dessert when it is unmolded. Place one piece of bread on top. Add more berries, a second layer of bread, then more berries.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap, pressing gently down upon the filled molds to remove any major air gaps.
Refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.
To unmold, gently run the tip of a sharp knife between the outer edge of the filling and the inner edge of the mold. Hopefully, you have been clever enough to have removed the plastic wrap before doing so. Place serving plate over the top of the mold, invert, and gently giggle the pudding free of its form. Repeat with the remaining puddings, if you are serving them all at once.
Top with whipped cream, ice cream, or bacon. Whatever makes you happy.