A lovely twist on the traditional summer pudding, and a great way to use up a glut of plums. Serve with crème fraîche.
Lightly butter a 850ml/1½pint pudding basin.
Place the plums and sugar in a large pan with five tablespoons of water. Heat to dissolve the sugar, stirring frequently to prevent the fruit from sticking to the pan. Once the sugar has dissolved, continue to cook the plums oven a medium heat, uncovered, until they are soft and have released their juices. Taste, and add more sugar to taste if necessary. Remove from the heat. If using, add the sloe gin (or crème de cassis or damson vodka) and stir to combine. Allow the plums and their juice to cool.
Slice the four corners off one of the slices of bread to make a rough circle. Dip the circle of bread in the plum juice in the pan, and place it, wet side down, at the bottom of the pudding basin. Cut several slices of bread in half, dip each one in the plum juice and place, wet sides outwards and short side down, against the inside sides of the pudding basin to line it. Ensure there are no gaps by putting each piece of bread right next to the previous one. Continue until the sides of the basin are completely lined with a single layer of bread. Cut a second circle of bread as before, and place it on top of the first circle, this will help to keep the sides in place.
Pour the plums and their juice into the bread-lined basin, filling it to the top. Take two-four more slices of bread and cut an arc on one side of each to fit the curve of the basin rim. Place these shaped slices on top of the fruit, using as many as needed to cover the fruit entirely.
Cover the pudding basin really tightly with cling film, ensuring the base is well sealed to prevent leaking, and invert onto a plate (leaving the basin in place), and refrigerate for at least a day.
When ready to serve, remove the pudding from the fridge and turn the basin right side up. Remove the cling film and release the edges of the pudding by gently running a knife around the edge, between the bread and the basin. Place a serving dish on top of the basin, and invert to turn the pudding out. Cut the pudding into wedges and serve with crème fraîche.
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