Thursday, July 23, 2009
What does it say about me when the only dreams I can remember are either the most emotionally terrorizing or food ones? Needless to say, I would prefer to never again shake-off a REM-sleep nightmare, and welcome eternal visions of bees busying themselves on lavender blossoms.
About a week ago I had one of my culinary nocturnal apparitions that took me back to my time in Australia. The Sydney summer was the best stretch of weather I have gotten to live through (and more than once). The climate that time of year was always warm; rarely did rain interrupt a solar bath; never did a gloomy fog roll in overnight requiring a mid-morning burn off, nor would the humidity assault you upon greeting the day. I even got to celebrate, my otherwise deep winter birthday during the shank of the summer. Everything about Sydney in the summer was good.
Living in a semi-tropical environment had other benefits and top among them were the fruits and vegetables that were some of the best I have eaten. It was a typical summer day that this New Yorker of eastern European descent had his first summer pudding. For me, pudding was a concoction of water, milk and powder from a box that got gently heated over the stove before being set in the refrigerator. Full stop. This pudding was made with a baker’s handcrafted loaf and peaking summer fruits that ended up staining the entire pudding berry red and saturating it with its nectar. It was not cooked like the bread puddings I started making after leaving my mother’s house, bathed in custard and slowly baked. This drenched jewel box required not a second of time over the stove – well, the truth be told I had the pastry chef make for me, so no sweat. I am not fortunate enough to have that pastry chef in my current life but the memory of those spoonfuls are still alive within the nostalgic cravings of my mind, to be accessed from those dreamy recipe cards.
Summer Pudding – serves 10
1-pound mix summer fruit – such as cherries, plums or peaches
1 tablespoon chopped mint
2-teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1-pound best quality sliced brioche, challah or white bread
10 four-ounce ramekins or large muffin tin
Puree one pint of the raspberries.
Pit whichever fruit you are using. If using cherries cut them in half. Cut the plums and peaches into 1/4-inch dice.
In a bowl gently mix together the pureed raspberries, remaining berries, cherries, mint and pomegranate molasses. Let the fruit sit at room temperature for about an hour.
Using a cookie cutter that fits the circumference of the ramekin cut out ten rounds (avoiding any crust). With the remaining bread slice strips of bread about 1/4-inch thick – at least wide enough to line the wall of the ramekin.
Cut thirty strips of parchment or waxed paper into 1/2-inch by 4-inches.
Line each ramekin with two strips of parchment paper letting there be plenty of overhang. Place a bottom round in each ramekin, and then line the wall of the ramekin with the strips of bread (make sure to come completely up the wall of the ramekin). Spoon the berry mixture amongst the ramekins tightly packing them with the fruit. Make sure to distribute the fruit juice amongst the ramekins. Place the remaining bread rounds on top of the pudding. Place the ramekins on cookie tray. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the puddings and put another cookie tray on top of the parchment paper. Place a weight such as a cast iron skillet on top of that cookie tray to weight the pudding. Store in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Carefully un-mold the pudding, using the strips of parchment, onto a plate. Serve with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.