Very Berry Bread Pudding with Lavender Cream

Pudding:
1 lb loaf 1 or 2-day old white bread sliced (egg bread or brioche is preferred)
4 cups mixed berries
3/4 or 1 cup sugar to taste
Lemon juice to taste
1/3 teaspoon cinnamon

Lavender Cream:
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup mascarpone
1/2 teaspoon edible lavender blossoms, fresh or dried
2 Tablespoons sugar
A handful of whole berries for garnish

Directions:
Pudding:
Preheat oven to 300°F. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and place in oven for 10 minutes to dry.  Cool slightly; remove crusts.

Wash berries, drain well, mix with 3/4 cup sugar and turn into a non-reactive pan.  Cook over medium heat just until sugar dissolves and berries are juicy, stirring gently once or twice.  Cool slightly; add lemon juice and sugar to taste, if desired. Add cinnamon.

Grease a 1 1/2-quart round-bottomed glass or ceramic bowl with butter. Line the bowl with bread slices, tearing off pieces to plug any holes.  Gently pour berry mixture into bowl.  Cover with more bread slices, again tearing pieces to plug holes. Cover with pieces of plastic wrap large enough to have a 2-inch overhang.  Cover the top with a plate just a little smaller than the circumference of the bowl. Weigh down the top with a lidded container filled with cold water or a couple of cans of food.

Refrigerate at least 6 and up to 24 hours.  Remove weights and plastic wrap.  Cover the bowl with an inverted serving plate and, holding the plate and bowl together firmly, flip to invert pudding onto serving platter.

Lavender Cream:
Whip cream and mix with mascarpone.  In a mortar or a clean coffee grinder, pulverize the lavender blossoms with the 2 tablespoons sugar; fold into the cream mixture.  Refrigerate up to 1 hour. Decorate the unmolded pudding with whole berries and serve lavender cream alongside.

Yields 8 servings.

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