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English Pudding and Punschtortes
No cook's repertoire is complete without a few good recipes for no-bake fruit desserts. Of course, fresh fruit is always wonderful with ice cream, sugar and cream or a simple cookie, but just as easy as these quick combinations is the English Fruit Pudding.
English Pudding, unlike a traditional American pudding, usually has a fancy-looking bright red dome shape. However, it is nothing more than bread slices arranged around a fruit filling in a mold. While the pudding compresses in the refrigerator, the bread absorbs the color and flavor of the fruits' juices.
You can use any type of soft, fresh fruit for the pudding's filling and all that is required is several hours before serving. No one will guess that this marvelous creation took no more than fifteen minutes to prepare and that you went on with your daily routine while it worked its own magic. As an alternative to making one large dish of pudding, you can make individual servings. Just follow the recipe using custard-size cups instead of one large container.
Along the same lines as English Fruit Pudding is an Austrian Punschtorte, which uses cake scraps compressed with a fruit punch syrup and fresh fruit to create a stunning mosaic effect.
English Fruit Pudding
serves 6 to 8
Inspired by James Beard's famous recipe and one of many that I've tasted in London, this is a simple, delicious dessert. For the filling, a mixture of soft summer fruits is ideal. I especially like the flavor combination of raspberries, red currants, ollalieberries and cherries, which create a crimson dessert. Garnish plate with blueberries and blackberries, but I recommend leaving these fruits, blue in color, out of the filling to avoid making the pudding too dark purple.
8 slices bread, preferably white or egg bread
4 cups summer fruits, stemmed and pitted
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Kirsch
Remove the crusts from the bread. Line the sides of a 1 1/2 quart deep stainless steel or ceramic bowl or mold with some of the bread slices, overlapping slightly, and pressing the edges together. Cut out a circle of bread for the bottom. Fill in any gaps with small pieces of bread so that the bread covers the container completely. Set it nearby.
Combine the fruit and sugar in a large heavy non-corrosive saucepan and cook over very low heat just until the sugar dissolves and the fruits' juices flow, about 4 minutes. Cool the mixture for about 20 minutes. Add the Kirsch to the fruit and spoon it into the bread-lined container, reserving some of the juice for serving time. Cover the pudding with the remaining bread. Set a plate on top that fits snugly inside the container. Place a 2 to 3-pound weight, such as a couple of unopened cans on top of the plate and refrigerate the pudding for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Unmold it onto a serving plate, garnish with fresh berries and serve with caramel sauce and reserved juice.
Caramel Sauce: Put 1 tablespoon butter and 1/3 cup sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Without stirring, melt the sugar over medium-low heat until amber in color. (It's okay to swirl the saucepan occasionally to mix the ingredients.) Pour in 1/2 cup of room temperature heavy cream. Be careful not to allow the mixture to foam up. With a wooden spoon, stir to combine ingredients. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Tip: Don't overcook the fruit or it will spoil its fresh flavor.
Small Punsch Cakes
Here's a perfect way to use scraps of cakes. I freeze them in a plastic container until I have enough to make this recipe.
This is my version in smaller forms of the Punschtortes I've tasted in Germany and Austria. Cake cubes are tossed with a punch of orange and lemon juice, jam and dark rum. When assembling this no-bake cake, a simple technique compresses the mixture in a foil-lined pan making it easy to remove the multi-colored layer cake cubes before topping each one with a glistening red raspberry.
8 cups cake trimmings, loosely packed
8 small sugar cubes
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1/3 cup strained apricot jam
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 cup (1/2 pint) fresh raspberries
Cut cake trimmings into 1/2 to 1-inch cubes and transfer to a large bowl. Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with aluminum foil.
Rub each side of four sugar cubes against the orange skin to capture the flavor from fruit's oil. Rub each side of four sugar cubes over the lemon. In a 3-cup heavy saucepan, combine the sugar cubes (to produce a more intense citrus flavor) with the water and granulated sugar over low heat. Stir occasionally and wash down any sugar clinging to the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water, until the sugars are dissolved. Increase the heat and cook the syrup, without stirring, until it reaches 230 degrees on a mercury candy thermometer. Stir in apricot jam and remove from heat to cool. Stir in juices and rum.
Using a rubber spatula, toss raspberries with cake pieces. Gradually add 3/4 cup of the punsch filling, tossing to coat and moisten the cake cubes. Continue to add more punsch filling just until cake pieces feel moist but not wet.
Spread moistened cake cubes with fruit into the pan. Fit a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the cake mixture, and set a pan, the same diameter as the one below on top of the aluminum foil. Put a 5-pound bag of sugar or something comparable in weight on top to condense the mixture. Refrigerate and keep the weight in place for at least 8 hours or until the cake is firm and compact enough to slice without crumbling. During this period, the mixture absorbs the punsch filling evenly to form into a moist cake layer. To serve, cut cake into 3-inch squares. Using a metal pancake spatula, lift each portion to a serving plate and garnish with fresh raspberries.
Unlike a cake batter, which may include flour, eggs, ground nuts or even chocolate to build its structure, these small cakes remain fragile since only moisture from the filling holds its unbaked mixture together.
Different cakes soak up varying amounts of punsch filling. For example, a spongy texture absorbs more of the filling than a buttery pound cake. For this recipe, 8 cups of leftover sponge cake works well.
Flo Braker has been teaching baking techniques and her sweet miniatures across the country for twenty years and is the author of several cookbooks.