In August we’re standing “smack in summer’s sweet spot,” says Russ Parsons in the Los Angeles Times. Peaches, melons, nectarines, and all kinds of berries are piled high in the farmers’ markets. All of these late-summer ingredients are so good that “you hardly have to do anything to make a delicious meal.” This summer pudding should be served cold, sliced to highlight the cross section of the fruit, and accompanied with whipped cream or lightly sweetened yogurt. This dish also lends itself to experimentation, so use a free hand and add plums, for example, if you’re so inspired.
Recipe of the week
California Summer Pudding
3/4 lb brioche, challah, or egg bread
1-1/2 lb peaches
3/4 lb blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp brandy
Trim the crusts from the bread and if it has not been sliced, cut it in roughly 1/3-inch slices. Stack the slices and cut them in half diagonally to make triangles.
Line a 6-cup mold or bowl with plastic wrap, fitting the wrap tightly into the corners. Make sure you have a plate small enough to fit just inside the rim of the bowl. If not, cut a stiff cardboard circle to fit and wrap it in aluminum foil (to be used later).
Piece together the bread slices in a single layer so they completely line the bowl. There should be no gaps, but the fit doesn’t have to be exact—wherever the bread overlaps, simply press the edges together tightly. Trim the bread where it comes over the top of the bowl.
Cut a shallow “X” in the base of each peach, and then dunk the peaches in rapidly boiling water until you see the peel start to come loose at the cut—about 20 seconds to 1 minute, depending on the ripeness of the fruit. Remove the peaches from the water and rinse under cold running water. The peels should slip off easily; if they don’t, return the fruit briefly to
the boiling water. Pit the peaches and cut them into chunks.
Combine the peaches, blackberries, and sugar in a saucepan and warm over medium heat. Cook just until the fruit begins to soften and release its juice, 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the brandy.
Spoon the fruit into the bowl; there should be enough that it mounds a little above the lip. Place a sheet of plastic wrap loosely across the top, then place the plate or cardboard circle on top. Press gently and stack a heavy can on top (tomatoes work great). Refrigerate at least 12 hours.
When ready to serve, remove the plate and the top layer of plastic wrap. Place a serving plate on top of the bowl or mold and invert the bowl so the pudding will unmold onto the serving plate. If the pudding resists unmolding, hold the plastic wrap and jiggle gently until it does unmold cleanly. Remove the plastic wrap lining. Serves 6 to 8.