the pleasure chest – basil summer berry pudding

the pleasure chest – basil summer berry pudding

As summer glides by, the food obsessed are enjoying abundant fresh produce. Like most of the regulars at the Farmer’s Market, I’ve been buying my favorite vegetables and fruit–plus new ones recommended by friends and the knowledgeable folks manning the stands.

The trap that many of us face is imaging all the possible dishes that we can conjure in the kitchen, which drives us to over-purchase for the limited time we have to make them. My refrigerator may be well stocked, but I tend to forget that some days my schedule is filled with everything except cooking and baking.

Summer fruit sets many traps for me—vibrant colors, strong aromas, unusual shapes, etc. I always come home with weighty bags, and unless you store the fruit with care, they can go bad before you can say “fruit salad.” This Basil Summer Berry Pudding is my solution to that specific quandary. Cups and cups of berries are encased in a challah chest. You must have patience for this jewel box to set, but the reward is nothing short of pure summer pleasure.


Basil Summer Berry Pudding


  • One challah loaf, cut into 1/4-inch slices crusts removed
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup, packed basil leaf
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups (8 ounces) blackberries, halved
  • 1-1/2 cups (8 ounces)  blueberries
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) raspberries
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold limoncello or water
  • 1/2 cup (5 1/2 ounces) strawberry or any berry preserves
  • 1 cup sweetened whipped cream for serving (optional)


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350℉. Line bottom and sides of a 8-1/2 by 4-1/2-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing excess to overhang on all sides. Make cardboard cutout to fit the top opening (inside) of the pan.

2. Place challah on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Bake until dry, about 10 minutes, flipping challah and rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let challah cool completely.

3. Add sugar and basil to a food processor and pulse until just combined. Set aside. Combine strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries in bowl. Transfer half of mixture to medium saucepan, add basil sugar, lemon zest and bring to simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook until berries release their juices and raspberries begin to break down, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in remaining berries. After 2 minutes, strain berries through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl for 10 minutes, stirring berries once halfway through straining (do not press on berries). Reserve berry juice, about 1 cup.
4. Sprinkle gelatin over limoncello/water in bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave until mixture is bubbling around edges and gelatin dissolves, about 30 seconds. Whisk preserves and gelatin mixture together in large bowl. Fold in strained berries and set aside.

5. Line bottom of loaf pan with challah slices to fit snuggly, trim as needed. Pour 1/4 cup of reserve berry juice evenly over the challah. Trim additional challah slices to fit the sides of the loaf pan, dip slices in reserved berry juice until saturated, about 30 seconds, then place along the sides of pan. Spoon berry mixture into the center. Trim remaining slices of challah to fit snugly side by side on top of berries (Use trimmings of challah to fit between the gap). Pour remaining reserved berry juice evenly on top. Cover pan loosely with overhang of plastic and place it in a large baking dish. Place cardboard cutout on top of pudding. Top with soup cans or heavy objects to weigh down pudding. Refrigerate pudding for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

6. Remove cans, cardboard, and plastic from top of pudding. Loosen pudding by pulling up on edges of plastic. Place inverted platter over top of loaf pan and flip platter and pan upside down to unmold pudding. Discard plastic. Slice pudding with serrated knife and serve with whipped cream (if use).