Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Chilled Summer-Berry Lasagne

Years ago, I came across a recipe for an old-fashioned sweet dish called summer pudding.  Though a fruit dessert not requiring oven use during les beaux jours was appealing, lining a bowl with ordinary white bread, no matter how wondrously soaked those slices would become with delicious berry juice, left me pondering how unattractive a soggy 'crust' sounds and how challenging it would be to unmould.

Fast forward to today, I discovered the trick is to use sturdy white bread, like a good bakery loaf of sourdough white, instead of mass-produced rectangles of mostly air.  Another is to depart from the classic form and do a more elegant layered presentation thereby obviating the need for a fragile bread shell.  Most importantly, this approach does not look as if you plopped a bowl over a bunch of lightly stewed fruit and gave it a hasty haircut!

(makes 3 individual four oz servings, but recipe can be doubled)

  • A mix of berries like blackberries, raspberries, black/red currants, blueberries, 1 quart (I used my garden's bounty: 1 cup* strawberries/raspberries, 1.5 cup* red currants, 1 cup* of blackberries, 1/2 cup* black currants).  If a coulis is desired, then toss in a couple more cups of berries and add sugar to taste)
  • Sugar, 3/8 cup*
  • Salt, coarse/kosher, a pinch
  • Bread, 9 slices, 1/4 inch thick (I used sourdough white)
  • Lemon juice, 1 T
  • Cream, heavy
  • Vanilla extract to flavour the cream if desired
  • Berries, whole for garnishing
  • Confectioner's sugar for dusting

*American measure, that is, 8 oz

The berry harvest chez nous is coming along nicely. This fruit laden lasagne along with a copious amount of coulis is a more pleasant way of using up a lot of fruit than my usual tending a cauldron filled with boiling jam.

If using strawberries, slice them 1/4 inch thick and put in a large skillet along with the sugar.  Stir over medium heat for about five minutes until the berries release their juice but are still intact and the sugar is dissolved.

Add the rest of the fruit and simmer for five minutes until there are loads of liquid.

Put the skillet contents into a suitably sized bowl, adding the lemon juice and salt.

Coarse salt has its uses

While the mixture is cooling, line three four-ounce ramekins with plastic wrap. If the sides of the mould are straight, bread circles of one size will suffice. However, use what you have available that will serve the purpose and adjust the diameter of the bread rounds if necessary.

Since bread comprises about one half of this pudding, choose really good, fresh bread. Using the bottom of the ramekin as a template, cut nine rounds, three for each ramekin.  If needed, and if the bread is soft enough you can just mush/piece together the right sized circle and still be able to dip it into the berry juices.

Checking to see if bread slices fit.  Crust was left on.

Using a measuring spoon, dole out two LEVEL (not heaping/rounded) tablespoons of the berries into the bottom of the ramekins. If required, remove berries/liquid from the measuring spoon.

Nearly finished ramekins, awaiting for the final slice of soaked bread

Completely permeate three bread slices/rounds with berry juice and place them in the three ramekins over the first layer of berries.

Repeat with two more layers -- berries, bread, berries, ending with the bread. The last slice needs to be above the top rim.

Place them on a plate, put a layer of plastic wrap over them, cover with another plate, and weigh down with a five pound weight. Usually cans of food are recommended, but there is a scarcity of canned food in our larder, so I went with books.  Refrigerate overnight.

My kitchen's holy book, Fannie Farmer's Cookbook was not hefty enough and needed some erudite assistance

Make the coulis by pushing the remaining berry mixture through a sieve with a wooden spoon and reserve in the fridge. 

Remember to use a clean spoon to scrape the outer bottom of the sieve!

Next day, whip up the cream, adding some sugar and a bit of vanilla extract if so desired. Invert the ramekins onto individual serving plates and remove the moulds/plastic wrap. Spoon the coulis around the pudding, topping it with whipped cream and garnish with whole berries, dusting them carefully with sieved confectioner's sugar.

The sourdough white came through with a nice robust touch, holding its own despite being gonflée (swollen) with berry juice. I suspect cinnamon bread, croissant, and brioche would add their own special qualities; I will substitute those for the sourdough white as I see a lot of berries in the near future! The fruit was more like a tart/sweet jam. The edible seeds from the currants were noticeable but not in a bad way, adding a little crunch to an otherwise soft texture. If you rather not have those seeds, then reserve the currants just for making the coulis. 

This is a gorgeous, refreshing dessert so the next time you are near a bunch of berries, take them home and make this moist mound of fruity delight afloat in a luscious sauce.

In the potager, I have been preparing beds as they come free for the autumn/winter harvest: leeks, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, peas, escarole, turnips, carrots, spinach, and beets.  Since these are all cool weather crops, I will water their beds well and cover them up with boards/cardboard/burlap for a few days to lower the soil temperature before sowing.

A garden is always a work in progress: spade, crate for weeds, yellow hose, and horticultural fleece

The tomatoes are beginning to change from green to yellow.

Beefsteak beauties

Hot, dry weather is continuing and perhaps the many days of cool rain will be a thing of the past so the melons can mature.

Cantaloupes are putting out fuzzy, tiny balls which hopefully will become melons

In the flower garden, the several Rose of Sharon bushes are beginning to bloom.

Because Dayo's injury unfortunately is not healing despite our best efforts, his weight-bearing, third toe on his right, back paw will need to be amputated. He's a young cat, having turned two this past April, so hopefully he will recover fairly quickly from surgery and learn how to compensate for one less toe without much difficulty.

Confined to the indoors, Dayo has discovered ways to keep himself amused. He loves hanging out in The Calm One's office because of all the knapsacks, briefcases, and satchels 'decorating' that room. 

Do I look cute in this?

À la prochaine!