Fantastic Max, my colleague, once asked if I’d ever eaten an Italian summer pudding. He was vague about it but swore it was one of the best desserts he’d ever had, and that it had some sort of cream in it along with the fruit. After some research, I have concluded that the result is a more subtle version of a British summer pudding, with contrasting textures inside, and with sharp, slightly sweet berries, soft, soaked brioche and creamy mascarpone to cut through it all.
Italian summer pudding
I used a 16cm x 16cm x 9cm pudding basin.
Prep 10 minutes
cooking 1 hr 20 mins
80g caster sugar
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
1 glug of marsala
A squeeze of lemonif need be
10 slices stale brioche
Put the raspberries, blueberries and blackberries in a medium-to-large saucepan, add the sugar and vanilla, then set over a low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until the fruit has broken down. Take off the heat and leave to cool and sit for an hour, so the juice is drawn out of the fruit.
Meanwhile, prepare a pudding mold by lining it with clingfilm, leaving some overhang, which will help you to seal it up later.
Hull the strawberries, then cut them in half lengthways. Strain the cooked berries, and save the juice in a shallow dish. Add the halved strawberries to the cooled berries and stir to combine.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone until it is collapsible, then stir in the berries and marsala. Now taste it: if it’s too tart, stir in a teaspoon more sugar (or to taste); if it’s too sweet, add a squeeze of lemon.
Dip the brioche slices one by one in the reserved fruit juice – it will take only a few seconds for it to soak up the liquid, so work quickly – then press all around the sides of the lined pudding basin laying a circular piece of brioche in the base and press all the brioche slices really well to secure them to the basin; check that there are no holes in the brioche “wall” as you go, and if need be plug them with small pieces of soaked brioche.
Tip the fruit and mascarpone mixture into the basin, and push down to compact it until you have a 2½cm gap between the fruit and the top of the basin. Take a piece of brioche large enough to cover the pudding – no need to soak this in juice first – and press this on top (this doesn’t need to be dipped in juice). Take the very tops of the brioche wall, which will now be higher than the brioche lid, and fold over and press down to seal the pudding completely.
Pull the clingfilm overhang over the pudding so it’s completely covered, pop a small plate weighed down with a heavy can on top, and chill overnight.
To serve, remove the can and plate, flip the pudding and clingfilm on to a platter, then peel off the film to reveal the wonderful pudding underneath. Serve cold, perhaps with any excess fruit juice poured over the top.