Why you should make England's most-famous warm-weather dessert.

By Victoria Spencer
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Bryan Gardner

When Americans say "pudding," they're probably referring to a specific type of creamy dessert, like chocolate pudding or even banana pudding. For us Brits, it's a bit different: A pudding is a dessert, pretty much any dessert, but it's also a steamed pudding like this chocolate-gingerbread option, and, of course, the famous Christmas plum pudding. So, what's a summer pudding? It's the quintessential dessert of the warmer (and in Britain, often wetter) months. Unlike those steamed puddings I just mentioned, it's a cold dessert-which might surprise those of you who think Blighty too chilly for anything cooler than lukewarm beer. And it's made in midsummer when soft fruits, as we so quaintly call berries and currants (for obvious reasons), are at their peak.

If you don't like making pastry or don't care to turn on the oven for cake when the thermometer goes past 85 degrees F, this is the dessert for you. It's no-bake; the only cooking required is a little stove-top time for the fruit. In place of pastry or cake, there's white bread, which is used to line a mold, the famous English pudding basin. The fruits are cooked gently on the stove top to release their juices, and that crimson liquid colors the bread as the pudding chills overnight, allowing the flavors to meld.

The result is spectacular-just about the best way to showcase raspberries, blackberries, and currants. It's a perfect, make-ahead dinner-party dessert-and your guests will never guess just how easy it was to make. Below is our step-by-step guide.

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Line the bottom of a two to two and half-quart bowl with bread, tearing bread as necessary to completely cover the bottom without overlapping. Halve the bread slices lengthwise. Line sides of bowl with overlapping bread slices (reserve some for the top); trim bread to make it flush with top of bowl.

Bryan Gardner

Combine berries, sugar, cinnamon, and 1/4 cup water in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, gently stirring a few times, just until berries start to soften and currants begin to burst and release their juices. Do not let mixture boil. Remove from heat. Let cool 10 minutes, then ladle or pour berry mixture into bowl.

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Cover berries with a single layer of remaining bread slices.

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Tear bread as necessary to fill in any gaps.

Bryan Gardner

Place a round dish or pan slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl on top of bread, and press down on plate until juices rise to surface. Place a heavy can or other weight on top of plate. Transfer to refrigerator and let chill at least 12 hours and up to one day.

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Remove weighted plate from basin. Run a thin knife around edge between bread and bowl.

Bryan Gardner

Invert pudding onto a rimmed serving plate and lift bowl to release pudding. Stir together mascarpone and cream in a bowl until smooth, then whisk to soft peaks. Cut pudding into wedges and serve with whipped mascarpone cream.

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