Sunday, August 03, 2008

Stuffed with Summer Berries

Sweetie and I enjoyed a meal a few days ago at a restaurant that was once in Santa Rosa and is now in a roadhouse on the highway on the way to Bodega Bay. It's called Saint Rose, it's small (although bigger than Cafe Saint Rose was in Santa Rosa), and the food is simple.
Of course the most difficult thing to do is to create something so simple that it is sublime. They do that with seasonal foods, some from their own garden. The white corn soup was the essence of summer. The heirloom tomato salad was enhanced with just the right amount of balsamic vinegar and fruity olive oil. The salmon was adorned with perfect roasted cherry tomatoes. The best dish however was the summer berry pudding.

I've read recipes for summer pudding over the years but never got around to making any. It's pretty simple...bread slices line a mold, the center is stuffed with berries and more bread and the mold is topped off with more bread. In some variations all of the berries are cooked with water and sugar, in some the berries are uncooked and a current jelly or apple jelly syrup holds them together. In some the bread is buttered and in some it's not.

After enjoying Saint Rose's version, I was inspired to try my hand at making a summer pudding. Since I only needed enough for three, I used a fairly narrow but deep bowl with straight sides as a mold. I lined it with the bread after removing the crusts, making sure to tightly fit the bread together across the bottom and up the sides.

In a pot I put a cup of fresh strawberries in 1/4 inch dice, and a cup of ripe blackberries fresh off the bushes down by the old garden. I added 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoons sugar and let it simmer for 10 minutes and then cool a bit. If the berries weren't so ripe and sweet, I would have added more sugar. As I found out when we finally ate it, the Saint Rose version used more sugar. Both are good, so go for sugar to your taste.

Once the mixture had cooled a bit, I added another cup of sliced strawberries and another cup of blackberries, plus a cup of organic blueberries from a farm stand near Ross Station Road. They were plump and bursting with flavor. The Saint Rose version seemed to have used only blueberries and blackberries, both cooked a bit, but I wanted the flavors of all three. Having some of the berries uncooked gave it a sparkling flavor and a little more bite to the texture. Again, both were good, so you could easily cook all the berries, just keep the cooking time short.

Most of the berry mixture was spooned into the bread lined mold. I added another layer of bread about half way through, more of the berry mixture, then topped it off with a layer of bread.

The extra berry mixture went into a pint canning jar to be used for garnish.

The mold went into the 'fridge for a couple of hours, then I put a plate over the top and weighed it down with a large can of enchilada sauce (it was the largest can I had in the pantry) and put it back in the fridge overnight.

When it was time to serve, I slid a knife around the edge of the bowl, and turned the berry pudding out on a plate. There were a few places where the juices hadn't soaked all the way through. Those got a little dribble of the reserved extra berry mixture. Then I put some more berry mixture around the edge of the pudding to serve. It really was pretty with bread tinted a reddish purple and all the red and blue and purple colors of the berry mixture.

The pudding cut easily and held together pretty well. More of the sauce garnished the serving. A spoonful of whipped cream would have been the perfect addition if I'd had any.

It made a lovely dessert with the essence of summer berries. The bread had soaked up the juices and turned pudding like. The berries themselves were just sweet enough, but with a tang of tartness, perfect on a warm summer evening.

Stuffed with Berries Summer Pudding

about 1/2 loaf of fine textured bread, sliced, crusts removed
2 cups fresh, ripe strawberries, divided
2 cups fresh, ripe blackberries, divided
1 cup fresh, ripe blueberries
(Any combination of berries is fine - a larger amount would be needed if you are using a 9 or 10 inch spring form pan - probably 6 or 7 cups total)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoon to 1/2 cup taste
Whipped cream for garnish, if desired

Line the bottom and sides of a mold with tightly fitted pieces of the bread slices. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, stir together 1 cup strawberries, hulled and cut in 1/4 inch dice, and 1 cup blackberries, the water and the sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes to soften fruit and create a syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool. (You could also simmer all of the fruit for the pudding if you prefer, let cool and then proceed to fill the mold.) Add the uncooked 1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced, the uncooked 1 cup blackberries and the uncooked 1 cup blueberries. Stir to combine.

Spoon one half the berry mixture into the prepared mold. Add another layer of bread, fitted to cover the berries. Spoon enough of the rest of the berry mixture to fill the mold, leaving enough space at the top for the last layer of bread. Fit that last layer of bread to completely cover the berry mixture. Place the mold in the refrigerator for two hours. Reserve any extra berry mixture for when you serve the pudding.

After two hours, remove the mold from the refrigerator. Place a plate that fits the top of the mold over the bread layer and weight it down with a heavy canned good. Return to the refrigerator and leave overnight.
To serve, run a knife around the sides of the mold to loosen the pudding. Place a serving plate over the mold and invert. If there are any spots where the juices didn't soak through the bread, spoon a little of the syrup of the reserved berry mixture over the spots.

Garnish with the extra berry mixture and whipped cream. Serve cold.


  1. I've often seen recipes for summer puddings. I love berries. But I've never been sure about the bread part. I'm glad to hear that it is all good.

  2. I have not made Summer Pudding in so very long. This has me longing to do so.

  3. I have not made Summer Pudding in so very long. This has me longing to do so.

  4. Mmm, that looks like a heavenly summer dessert. Extra whipped cream on mine, please.

  5. I LOVE summer pudding and have somehow comletely forgotten about it! It's probably been 10 years since I last made it- thanks for the reminder- yours looks amazing!

  6. This looks good enough to eat off the page! I've never heard of summer pudding, and it reminds me of English trifle. I'm tempted to try!

  7. Anonymous6:44 PM

    Wow, this looks amazing! I'll have to give it a try. I'll also put that restaurant on my list next time we head near Bodega Bay.

    As for "fine textured" bread, would that be something like white Wonder Bread?

  8. Mmm nothing makes summer berries shine like a summer pudding. Looks delicious

  9. KJ, Summer puddings always seemed so complicated to me, but it was easy.

    Peabody, Imagine this with Northwest blackberries and loganberries!

    Cookie Baker Lynn, I'll put extra whipped cream on your serving. :)

    Brittany, Glad this sparked good memories. The blogging community is so wonderful that way.

    Anna, It's much healthier than a custard or whipped cream or booze...just bread and fruit and a little sugar.

    Mrs. L, Do try Saint Rose...great place. The bread is Oroweat buttermilk bread. I don't think that Wonder Bread would hold need it to soak up the juices but still stay firm. Even the buttermilk bread wasn't quite firm enough...a challah would probalby be perfect.

    Katie, Couldn't agree more. This will be a regular dish each summer now that I know how great it is.