Summer Pudding

I recently read an article that said that people do better when they are given fewer, rather than too many, choices and I have to say that I concur. As much as I love the bounty of summer fruit that is available in the bay area in mid-July, I am often overwhelmed by the vast selection and sometimes my brain just freezes when it comes to thinking of what to do with all of it. When I was invited to a dinner party yesterday and offered to bring dessert, I knew that I wanted to do something that featured summer fruit, but I also knew that meant facing my demons.

Thankfully, I had a few, perfectly ripened white nectarines sitting in my kitchen so at least I had a starting point, but there were not enough of them there to make an entire dessert and I really had no idea what type of dessert to make anyway. A tart? Pie? Sorbet? Cake? I could feel my blood pressure rising as I weighed my options. Then suddenly, something magically clicked in my mind and I decided right then that I would do a traditional summer fruit pudding. Of course, this would be my interpretation, so it was anything but traditional, and actually turned out to be more of a summer pudding/trifle fusion, but was delicious nonetheless.

I ventured out and picked up some luscious strawberries and blueberries to go with my nectarines and once home, I immediately began assembling my puddings so that they would be ready to eat after dinner. The first thing I did was to macerate the berries in sugar to release as much of their juice as possible.

As the berries sat, I started the next part of my prep which was to remove the crust from a locally made sweet batard and tear the inside of the bread into large chunks. I then smashed a package of lady fingers into coarse crumbs with a rolling pin and lastly, I whipped together some sour cream, whipping cream and sugar until it had a smooth, thick consistency and a perfect sweet-tart balance.

Once my prep work was done it was time to start the assembly. I decided to use canning jars to make individual puddings, something I love to do because they look great and are easy to transport with their lids screwed on. I began with a thin layer of the sour cream mixture on the bottom of each jar. Next I added a layer of bread and then a layer of blueberries. Once the blueberries were in I doused them with a good amount of their juices to make sure that the bottom layer of bread was well soaked. I then topped the blueberries with a thin layer of the lady finger crumbs and repeated the process using strawberries and their juice for the next layer.

I then topped it all off with a layer of the diced white nectarines.

Finally, I covered each jar with plastic wrap and weighted them down with glasses filled with plant marbles. I then placed the puddings in the refrigerator where they remained for about 4 hours, allowing the bread to soak up all of the juices and the flavors to marry.

At dessert time, I unwrapped the jars and topped each pudding with a dollop of gently whipped cream and home-grown wild strawberries.

Needless to say, the dessert was a huge hit and really tasted like the best of summer. This is one of my favorite desserts because you can make it well in advance, it is easy to assemble once the components are prepped, and you can vary it in any way based on the fruit you have on hand.

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