The Simple Art of Cooking: Some Berry Good Desserts

Summer berries
Summer berries

It’s berry season on the East End, and I couldn’t be happier. I combine them into my morning cold cereal mix. Or, I simmer them slowly with a bit of sugar and cinnamon to a near puree, then spoon them over pound cake to satisfy my husband’s sweet tooth. And when a celebratory meal is in the making, I think a mixed berry trifle or a summer berry pudding will fit the bill.

Long before the Europeans arrived in the New World, the native tribes of North America gathered a variety of wild sapphire-colored berries as a food staple. The Indians called these fruits “star berries,” because of the star-shaped calyx on the top of each berry. But of course we know them as blueberries. My mouth waters for our local raspberries. I believe there is nothing sweeter. They are however a more perishable berry, so be sure to use them within a day or two of purchase if you plan to prepare the special berry deserts below. I purchase raspberries from an organic grower or a local sustainable farmer and never rinse these delicate beauties.

Just enjoy our fresh local berries as long as they last. Blueberries, by the way, freeze beautifully. That’s my do-ahead mindset!


Avail yourself of the bountiful harvest of seasonal berries to prepare this do-ahead summer pudding.

Serves 10 to 12

15 slices good quality thin sliced white bread

1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

1 1/2 quarts mixed fresh berries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries

Grated rind of 1 lemon

Fresh sprigs of mint for garnish

Vanilla bean ice cream or crème fraîche, optional

1. Remove crusts from the bread and cut them into triangles. Line the sides and bottom of a 2-quart stainless steel bowl and fit the slices neatly, one against the next, leaving no gaps between the slices. Reserve enough slices to cover the top.

2. Put the sugar, lemon juice and water in a non-reactive, enamel or stainless, saucepan and bring to the edge of a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the berries and grated lemon rind to the syrup and simmer uncovered, about 3 minutes. Let cool.

3. Carefully spoon the cooled fruit and their juice into the bread-lined bowl. Place additional bread slices over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and weight down with a heavy object in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours or up to three days.

4. Just before serving, unmold by running a knife along the inside of the mold. Invert onto a serving plate. Arrange sprigs of mint around the base for presentation. Slice into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream or dollops of crème fraîche, if desired.


This do-ahead summer trifle is a delicious way to serve up fresh summer berries.

Serve 8 to 10

For the lemon syrup

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

Grated rind of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons lemon juice

For the Trifle

1 pint each raspberries, blueberries and blackberries

1 1/4 cups heavy cream, whipped with 2 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar

1 (12-ounce) pound cake

Lemon syrup

1/2 cup raspberry preserves

1. Combine lemon syrup ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Adjust heat and simmer at a brisk surface bubble about 10 to 12 minutes until a light syrup results. Watch carefully then let cool.

2. Rinse the berries quickly under a spray of cool tap water. Let drain in a colander for several minutes, then gently spread out on paper towels to dry. Transfer berries to a bowl and reserve about 1 cup to garnish the trifle.

3. In a cold bowl with cold beaters whip the cream, gradually adding the sugar after cream is partially whipped. Continue whipping until firm peaks form. Be careful not to over beat.

4. To assemble trifle, cut pound cake into 1/2–inch slices. Arrange one-third slices in bottom of glass trifle bowl and sprinkle with 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon syrup. Dollop one-third raspberry preserves over the cake, then spread to sides of bowl. Top with one-third mixed berries over the preserves then one-third of the whipped cream over the berries. Repeat this procedure two more times. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of three hours or even up to one day ahead. Garnish with dollops of cream and reserved berries.

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