17 July, 2007

July recipe: Summer pudding

Most recipes for summer pudding tell you to use raspberries and redcurrants, so for years I never made it. I prefer to eat raspberries fresh, and on the rare occasions when the canes produce more than we can eat, I make the surplus into jam. It was only recently that I came up with the idea of trying summer pudding with blackcurrants (yes, I am slow on the uptake), which are just a little too tart to eat fresh and which make marvellous puddings. July is prime blackcurrant season, so here’s my recipe. You need decent white bread for a good summer pudding – I’m afraid mass-produced blotting-paper sliced white just doesn’t cut it. I make my own bread (it’s not difficult), so I’ve included the bread recipe as well.

If you don’t like blackcurrants, replace them with raspberries and redcurrants in about a 2:1 ratio, and reduce the sugar.

Summer pudding always looks to me, as a non-expert in the history of food, as if it ought to go back centuries, but apparently it’s a twentieth-century invention. Which just proves there is such a thing as progress.

Oh, and by the way, don’t skimp on the cream. Summer pudding itself contains no fat at all if you use my bread recipe, so you’re entitled to a free hand with the cream.

Summer pudding (serves 6)

1.5 lb (approx. 700 g) blackcurrants
6 oz (approx. 150 g) sugar
8 oz (approx 250 g) good-quality white bread, a day old
Double cream to serve

Wash the blackcurrants and remove the stalks.
Put the blackcurrants and sugar in a saucepan and simmer for 3-4 minutes to soften the fruit and get the juices to run. Remove from heat.
Cut the bread into slices about 0.25-0.5 inch thick (about 0.5-1 cm thick).
Cut a piece from one slice to fit the bottom of a 2 pint (approx. 1 litre) pudding basin.
Reserve enough bread slices to cover the top of the pudding basin, and put them to one side.
Cut the remaining slices into fingers and fit them around the sides of the basin. Cut off any bread that sticks out above the top of the basin. Fill in any gaps with small pieces of bread. Some people find it easier to dip the bread in the blackcurrant juice first, as this helps it to adhere to the sides of the basin and gives it an even colour.
Pour in the fruit and sugar mixture. It doesn’t matter whether it’s still hot or has cooled down.
Cover the top of the fruit mixture with the reserved slices of bread.
Put a small saucer or plate on top, and weight it down with something heavy. I use a plastic milk carton full of water, which weighs about 1.25 lb (approx 600 g), and this seems to work quite well.
Stand the weighted pudding overnight in the fridge, on a plate or tray just in case any juices spill out.
Next day, serve the pudding cut into wedges, with plenty of cream to pour over it. If you’re feeling really confident, you can turn the pudding out onto a plate before serving it. I generally just scoop the servings out of the pudding basin.
Any left over will keep in the fridge for several days, though once cut it will start to collapse (and it would therefore be a good idea to leave it in the basin, rather than turning it out, if you’re intending to eat it over several days).
It won’t freeze, though you can make it with frozen blackcurrants.

Plain white bread (makes 1 x 8 oz [approx 250 g] loaf)

5 oz (approx 130 g) strong white bread flour
0.5 teaspoon (0.5 x 5 ml spoon) sugar
0.5 teaspoon (0.5 x 5 ml spoon) dried baking yeast
Water to mix

Put about 25 ml of boiling water and 25 ml of cold water into a cup. Stir in the sugar. Sprinkle the dried yeast on top.
Leave for 10-15 minutes for the yeast to froth up.
Put the flour in a bowl and make a hollow in the centre. Pour the yeast liquid into the hollow and mix well. Gradually add more water until the mixture forms a soft dough.
Knead the dough for a minute or two.
Put the dough back in the bowl and leave for 45-60 min to rise.
Knead again for a minute or two. Shape into a loaf. Put the loaf on a greased baking sheet and leave for another 45-60 min to rise again.
Bake for 25-30 min in a hot oven (approx 250 C) until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the base.
Cool on a wire rack.

The above quantity will make a loaf of about the right size for the summer pudding recipe. If you want to make more bread, double up the quantities as needed. The yeast quantity as given above is generous for the amount of flour, chiefly because trying to measure less than half a teaspoon is a pain. I usually make it in larger quantities, and use a teaspoon of dried yeast to raise 1 lb (approx 500 g) of flour. Dried yeast may vary by brand, so read the instructions on the packet. I use Allinsons Traditional Dried Active Yeast, which is available at most UK supermarkets, but I have no idea at all what the equivalent might be in other countries. I also have no experience with the ‘easy bake’ yeasts where you put the dried yeast straight in with the flour, so if you’re using those you’re on your own.
The bread can be eaten hot the day it is made (delicious with butter melting on it), cold the following day, or can be frozen as soon as it has cooled. Or you can use it in summer pudding.


Bernita said...

I have trouble believing the recipe is a 20th century invention myself.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

I make it occasionally including blackcurrants. It just depends what fruit I've got in the garden or freezer and I mix and match quantities with random abandon - never tastes the same twice! Cream is a definite accompaniment!
I think summer pudding must have some older rellies lurking about if nothing exactly the same. It's not so far from sops in wine or milk, to sops in fruit

Carla said...

It does seem as though it should be much older, doesn't it? The link I cited said there were earlier variants, but the crucial difference was that they all used stewed fruit whereas summer pudding uses raw fruit. I must say it didn't seem that crucial a difference to me.