When Life Gives You Red Currants

Good white bread, tart red fruit, a few tablespoons of sugar, a splash of water — in less than a half hour, with no particular skill and a little patience, you can make a splendid English summer pudding.

I guarantee you, no sweet better conveys the pure fresh flavors of raspberries or red currants, is more refreshing after a light evening meal or luncheon.

All the things you think you want — the butteriness of shortbread, the creaminess of ice cream, the rich, thickened fruitiness of cobbler and pie — summer pudding proves the addition of subtraction.

Tempted to improve on the result with challah or brioche? Don’t. It won’t.

Instead find a good loaf of white bread, crust removed, stale or gently dried in the oven.

Red Currants from Deep River Farms (Credit: CT Examiner)

Butter or line a basin, a bowl or a mold with plastic wrap. Arrange the bread in slices around the inside and at the bottom. Try to be tidy — the pudding will be unmolded — but don’t go overboard. Reserve enough bread for a lid.

In a pan over high heat cook the sugar, fruit and water, stir only very gently to keep the fruit intact, until it reaches simmer. About 5 or 8 minutes. Do not overcook.

Fill the bread-lined basin with the still-hot fruit and juice, making sure that the bread is moistened thoroughly and there is enough juice to pour over when you add the top. Add the top.

Now cover with plastic wrap and press the pudding lightly with a plate or flat-bottomed dish while the dessert cools. Refrigerate overnight.

To serve, gently unmold onto a plate. The pudding should release easily and stand up nicely on its own. Decorate with fresh berries, mint leaves or piped stabilized whipped cream.

Slice and serve with whipped cream on the side.

Ingredients
  • 6 cups of fresh red currants and red raspberries. The classic proportion would be 4 cups of currants to 2 cups of raspberries. If you don’t mind the off-color you can easily substitute blueberries or blackberries

  • 1 loaf of good white bread, sliced, with crusts removed. You can use a mass-market bread like Pepperidge Farm, but you’ll risk a texture closer to pap

  • 1/2 cup white sugar, or to taste. Avoid the temptation to oversweeten

  • 1/4 cup water (or slightly more if the bread is especially dry)

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