With so many of you having to stay home and cook for the first time — ever or more than you have in a long time — we get that it can be overwhelming to have to cook all your meals from scratch. So, we’re here to get you started.
Each day we’re going to post a new skill here and go in detail about how to do it — a resource for cooking basics so you can get food on the table and get through this.
Lesson 31: Summer Pudding
Several years ago, when I worked in the test kitchen at a food magazine in New York, I consulted one of the interns, a young, very wealthy British expat, about fancying up a recipe for British summer pudding — a layered dessert of bread soaked through with berries and syrup until soft and eaten cold with a glug of cream poured over the top — with brioche instead of the classic cheap white sandwich bread.
“Brioche?!,” she said sarcastically. “Well, that’s posh! Everyone I know would laugh at you if you tried that!”
Even for someone used to the finest food, that kind of “update” was a little too ostentatious. It was a great lesson on when to fiddle with classics and when to leave them alone. Sure, a summer pudding made with brioche would be richer and more decadent, but every bread has its purpose and white sandwich bread is the only bread for summer pudding.
A quarantine-induced comfort food craving caused me to buy a loaf of Bunny weeks ago to make old-school grilled cheese sandwiches, and with the leftovers I’ve made summer pudding.
Because I’m only cooking for two, I make it for breakfast, spooning it into a bowl to be topped with plain yogurt and granola. I sweeten berries — a single type or a mix of the B-R-B-S (Blueberry-Raspberry-Blackberry-Strawberry) family — with several spoonfuls of sugar (instead of the traditional cup) and a squeezed blob of honey, then add fresh-squeezed juice and a strip of zest of citrus. (In my case it was an aging orange on my counter.)
If I have a recently emptied jar of jam, I add the juice to the jar and give it a shake to dissolve the jam. I pour the jam-juice over the berries to further bump up their flavor and the thrift factor.
Like orange blossom water or rose water? Toss in a few drops. On a recent walk in the neighborhood, I plucked off a couple lemon blossom petals from a neighbor’s tree and tossed them in; if you’re in L.A. and can get away with such petty thievery, I highly recommend it for the intense floral aroma it adds to the berries. If I have candied ginger in the pantry — either the dried, sugar-crusted kind or the knobs floating in syrup — I mince up a spoonful and add it to the berries for heat too.
Once warmed in a pan to dissolve the sugar and break down the berries to mush, I pour it over a layer of the squishy-soft white bread — no crusts, please; we’re going for pure, unadulterated fluff — in a dish, cover it with more bread, then wrap the whole thing in plastic and weigh it down with a plate in the fridge overnight so the fruit juices can soak into the bread until it’s spoonably soft.
The next morning, I toss it in my bowl and top with my yogurt and granola — an especially wonderful cold treat on days when the daily high goes past 90 degrees. It feels like the right kind of spin on a classic, one that stays true to the original — I save dying berries from the trash bin and use up the last few slices of neglected white bread — while updating the flavors to fit our current times, where glitzy twists no longer hold up.