A delicious, traditional British Christmas dessert that's rich, aromatic and boozy!
We are baking, prepping and preening here in the G&B households. If cooking for an occasion seems daunting, we suggest you make a list, check it twice, and get all your non-perishables in the house this weekend. If you plan on making things from scratch, you can prepare so much in advance: sauces, gravy and pie & cookie dough especially. This weekend my big baking project was this traditional Christmas Pudding.
For the Brits, no Christmas Dinner is considered complete without one. It is to the British, what the Bûche de Noël is to the French, and Lebkuchen is to the Germans. I have a memory of sitting in the car, waiting for my grandmother who’d just jumped out yelling, “I forgot to feed the pudding!” I was a little confused about what a pudding could possibly eat, and even more so when she reappeared with a bottle of brandy from which she poured a few generous glugs into a bowl hanging in the garage. It turns out that Christmas puddings like a little liquor (don’t we all!), this helps keep it moist and also keeps it from developing bacteria, making it all ok to prepare weeks in advance.
Traditionally, Christmas puddings are made on ‘Stir Up Sunday’, the Sunday before the First Advent. But you can make also make it later in the month, of course. One year I made it two days before Christmas - it was just as delicious as an ‘aged’ pudding. It’s not difficult to make at all, but you do need to steam it for 7 hours. I always soak the dried fruits overnight, it plumps them up nicely and helps stop the pudding from drying out. This rich, aromatic and boozy dessert is served with brandy butter or (boozy) custard - or both! xoxo Kirsty
Traditional Christmas Pudding
1 cup (170g) sultanas
1 cup (170g) dried cranberries
1/2 cup (85g) currants
1/2 cup (115ml) brandy plus more for ‘feeding’ and lighting
1 orange, finely grated rind and the juice
1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter, soft, plus extra for greasing the bowl
2/3 cup (100g) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (125g) self-raising flour (or whisk together plain flour plus 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/8 teaspoon salt)
1 teaspoon mixed spice (or use 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice and a few gratings of nutmeg)
1 apple, peeled, cored and cubed
1/2 cup (40g) fresh white breadcrumbs - this is a great way to use up old bread. Dry in a low temperature oven for a few minutes and then pulse in a blender or food processor.
You’ll also need a glass, heatproof pudding bowl (1.5L or 2.5 pint), parchment paper and foil.
In a large bowl, combine sultanas, cranberries, currants, brandy and the juice of 1 orange. Cover and leave to steep overnight at room temperature.
The next day, butter a heatproof glass or ceramic bowl. Cut out a small disc of parchment paper and press into the bottom of the bowl.
Place the butter, sugar and grated orange rind in a large bowl and cream it together with a wooden spoon or electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. If the mixture starts to curdle, add in a tablespoon or two of the measured flour.
Combine the flour and mixed spice, and fold it into the butter mixture with the breadcrumbs. Add the dried fruits directly from the bowl they were soaked in, including any residual liquid. Add the apple cubes and breadcrumbs. Stir to combine.
Fill the greased pudding bowl with the mixture and gently press it down. Place a circle of parchment paper directly on the mixture. Take a large sheet of foil and fold a pleat down the middle by overlapping 2 inches or so, and then cover the bowl with the foil. Tie a piece of string around the bowl to hold the foil in place. To make a handle, tie another doubled piece of sting to the string around the bowl. This will make it much easier to remove the bowl from the pan.
To steam the pudding, place the bowl in a large pot with a steamer insert. Add enough water to come up to the top of the steamer insert. Cover the pot with with a lid and steam for 7 hours. Check the water level every hour, and top it up as necessary.
After 7 hours, remove the pudding from the pot and set it aside to cool completely. Remove the parchment paper and foil, and replace with fresh sheets of parchment paper and foil. Store in a cool, dry place.
To feed the pudding, poke some holes in the top of the pudding and pour in 1-2 tablespoons of brandy every week, until Christmas Day.
To serve, steam the pudding again for about two hours to reheat it. Carefully turn the pudding out onto a platter and decorate with holly leaves and berries.
Christmas Pudding is brought to the table flambéed. To do this, warm a couple of tablespoons of brandy in a small pan, pour it over the hot pudding and (carefully!) set light to it. It will extinguish itself once the alcohol has burned off. Serve with brandy butter & enjoy!
For the Brandy Butter:
1/2 cup (115g) soft unsalted butter
1 cup (145g) light brown sugar
a tiny pinch of salt
2-3 tablespoons (10-15ml) brandy
Cream the butter, brown sugar and salt together with an electric mixer until well combined. Add the brandy slowly, continuing to mix. Cover and chill until ready to serve.