3 pounds of mixed berries such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries
About 12 slices good-quality day old white bread (like Pepperidge Farm), crusts removed
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, for garnish
Choose and cook the berries, then line the pudding mold
1. Pick over blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, removing any remaining stems or those that show signs of rot. Rinse and drain blueberries, blackberries and raspberries but do not mix berries together.
2. Rinse strawberries, drain, then hull and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut strawberries in half, or, if large, cut into quarters.
3. Place strawberries and blueberries in a large mixing bowl and toss with 1-1/4 cups sugar. Pour sugared strawberries and blueberries into a heavy saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water. Shaking pan occasionally, cook strawberries and blueberries until juices begin to run, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from pot from heat and very gently fold in blackberries and raspberries. Place lid on pot, setting off heat for 2 minutes more; set aside.
4. Brush the bottom and sides of a deep 2-quart mixing bowl or charlotte mold with some of the fruit syrup. Cut a piece of bread to fit into the bottom of the pan. Cut the bread into rectangle slices, a little narrower at the bottom, about 2-inches wide. With bread slices slightly overlapping, line the insides of the bowl; gently brush the bread with more syrup. Ladle the fruit and syrup into the bowl and cover with more bread, cut to fit snugly over top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
Weigh pudding down and chill overnight
5. Cover the top of the mold with a flat plate, then place a weight (or heavy can or casserole) on top of the plate to weigh the pudding down.
6. Refrigerate pudding, 12 to 24 hours, before inverting onto a rimmed cake dish or serving platter. (Unmolding pudding onto a rimmed dish is essential to catch berry juices.) Pudding may be cut into wedges and served with whipped cream, on the side.
Spoon and layer, if you wish
7. Alternatively, spoon summer pudding into a dessert dish deep enough to hold the berry juices, spooning whipped cream between the layers of pudding. Serves 6-8.
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