Saturday, 23 November 2013

Christmas Pudding

My dear sister in law, Sally told me she had searched my blog for my Christmas pudding recipe and failed to find it, having meant to put it up last year I had forgotten and so here it is. You will find many people don't like Christmas pudding and having tasted some of the dense, dark and bitter offerings even sold in up market shops, I can well understand why. Christmas pudding should and can be a rich pudding, delicately flavoured with spice and bursting with dried fruit. The fruit, rendered moist and plump from the hours of soaking and cooking in a mix containing liqueur of some sort, mine contains stout and amaretto liqueur but you can use whatever takes your fancy.
Tomorrow is fondly referred to as Stir up Sunday, it is traditionally the day when this pudding is made but I believe it's probably the last Sunday in the year when Christmas puddings should be made since the puddings benefit from a few weeks resting before the second steaming on Christmas day. I once heard Stir up Sunday being pronounced Stirrup Sunday, clearly an altogether different activity.

To make 2, one litre puddings you will need;
250g of white breadcrumbs
100g of Self Raising flour
200g of unsalted butter
450g of muscovado sugar
4 eggs
400g of golden sultanas
300g of lexia raisins
300g of raisins
100g of almonds roughly chopped
100g of candied peel chopped.
1 large apple, grated
The grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
4 tablespoons of Disaronno liqueur
300ml of dark ale or stout
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
1 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Begin by making the breadcrumbs, use a sturdy bread rather than a soft white loaf. I use my white sourdough (2 or even 3 days old), but a bread that has a little wholewheat flour in is also ideal. Place the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Melt the butter and pour onto the breadcrumbs. Traditionally of course grated suet would be used but since I don't eat meat I use butter, I find melting it, is altogether the easiest way to ensure even distribution and makes mixing easy. Whisk the eggs with the stout, liqueur spices and salt and add to the bowl along with all the other ingredients. 
Leave the bowl covered overnight so that the fruit can fully rehydrate before steaming the puddings. 
Prepare 2 large pudding basins or a number of smaller ones if your prefer, by greasing the inside with softened butter. Divide the mix between the basins, having given the mix a final stir and making a wish. Wrap the basins with several layers of cling film and steam the puddings for 6 hours. Make sure you keep an eye on the puddings so that you can top up with boiling water whenever the pan looks as though it may boil dry. I usually pop an upturned saucer under the basin in each saucepan in order to avoid the bottom of the basin coming in contact with direct heat. Pierce the cling film once the steaming is complete in order to avoid the cling film shrinking back onto the puddings. Wrap with a final layer of cling film once the puddings have cooled.
The puddings can then be kept in a cool place for several months, I have certainly kept a pudding to use the following year. Steam the pudding for 3 hours prior to the festive meal in order to ensure a light textured deliciously rich pudding. Serve with double cream, but if your family prefer, rum or brandy butter.

When it comes to flaming the pudding, heat 100ml of brandy in a soup ladle immediately after turning the pudding out onto a plate ready to serve, when the brandy begins to simmer, pour it onto the pudding and light it, walk proudly into the dining room (lights dimmed) and hold your offering up high.
You can buy a product which is described as chopped candied peel, it is responsible for putting off many people and should be banned, do try to find whole peel that has been candied and chop it yourself, you will be rewarded.
Sharp eyed readers will spot fig seeds in the photos of the puddings. I have had to use last year's photos in order to publish this recipe and having included figs (100g) in my puddings last year for the first time, I have decided not to use them again.

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