Recipes / By Margaret M. Johnson
What could be sweeter (and easier) than a big bowl or fresh berries for a summer dessert? A trifle, perhaps? A cobbler? A summer pudding? A bit more effort, I agree, but the rewards are greater, too.
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Some attribute this deliciously simple dessert to the English, but it’s equally popular in Ireland. As its name indicates, summer fruits like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are the main ingredients. But don’t be fooled by the word “pudding” in its name, since the dessert is actually made with white bread or brioche! After the fruit and bread have mingled overnight, the result is a colorful and unusual dessert that almost looks too pretty to eat. I’ve been a fan since 1999 when the recipe first appeared in my “Irish Heritage Cookbook.”
8 cups mixed berries
3/4 cup sugar
24 slices firm white bread or brioche, crusts removed
Whipped cream or clotted cream, for serving
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine berries and sugar. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until berries soften and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Strain berry mixture, reserving all juice and berries.
2. Line a 2-quart soufflé dish or mixing bowl with plastic wrap. Cut one piece of bread to fit bottom of bowl; dip into juice and place in bottom of bowl. Cut remaining slices into wedges; dip each piece, one at a time, into juice.
3. Place three quarters of juice-soaked bread or brioche wedges against sides of bowl, pressing to remove any gaps. Spoon berries into center and top with remaining wedges. Cover with plastic wrap.
4. Set bowl on a plate to catch any juices that spill out. Lay another plate on top and place a weight on it (use a can of coffee or beans) to ensure that the bread absorbs all the juices. Refrigerate overnight.
5. To unmold, remove weights and plastic wrap from the top. Invert bowl onto a clean serving plate and quickly turn over together. Remove plastic wrap from rest of pudding. Cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream.
MIXED BERRY SPONGE PUDDINGS
Another of my favorite puddings is one that combines a sponge cake with the bounty of summer fruits. Similar to many Irish puddings, these are made in a water bath known as a bain marie.
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon milk
3/4 cup mixed summer berries
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving
1. Preheat oven 325° F. Butter eight (4-ounce) ramekins.
2. In a medium bowl, beat butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour, baking powder and milk to make a smooth batter.
3. Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into prepared dishes, divide berries over top, and then cover with remaining batter.
3. Put dishes in a large baking pan and add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of dishes. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until puddings are lightly browned and set. Remove from oven and transfer puddings to wire rack; let cool for about 10 minutes.
4. To serve, run a knife around sides of dishes and turn each pudding out onto a dessert plate; return puddings to upright. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
GRATIN OF SUMMER FRUITS WITH CELTIC SABAYON
One of Italy’s great gifts to the dessert world is zabaglione, a heavenly combination of egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala wine whisked over simmering water to a pale, yellow froth. In France and other parts of the world, the sauce is called sabayon. Thanks to the world of Irish spirits, this version is made with Irish Mist, a blend of spirits, honey, and Cognac.
For the sabayon
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup superfine sugar
3 tablespoons Irish Mist
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
For the gratin
3/4 cup raspberries
1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup blackberries
1/2 cup blueberries
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Mint springs, for garnish
Shortbread cookies, for serving (optional)
1. Make sabayon. In a double boiler, combine yolks, sugar, wine and lemon juice. Whisk over simmering, not boiling, water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until thick, pale, and creamy.
2. Make gratin. Preheat broiler. Divide fruit among six (8-ounce) broiler-safe bowls. Spoon sabayon over top of fruit and brown lightly under broiler 4 inches from heat source for about 2 minutes, or use a kitchen blowtorch and move flame constantly over surface until top is lightly browned. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and garnish with mint. Serve with shortbread cookies, if desired.
Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page also includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed copy of her new cookbook “Teatime in Ireland,” visit www.irishcook.com