So, just so we all understand each other before I continue, my writing about extravagant Christmas foods is like a 14-year-old taking the wheel of Mini Cooper on a freeway at rush hour. In other words, this Jewish girl knows just enough to be dangerous.
Nevertheless, my instructor in this, Jenny Williams of Jenny Wenny Cakes, is all about Christmas desserts. And, she's especially adept at a family tradition, her great-grandmother's Christmas pudding. Jenny, who is from Birmingham, England, contacted me over the summer, asking me to come in and make a dessert with her. And the dessert she wanted to show me--and, yes, she delighted in the irony--was her family's Christmas pudding. We finally got together at the end of September, which is when she begins making these desserts. Those in the know will get that a true Christmas pudding must sit in the fridge for months to develop the flavor and texture you want to deliver on Christmas day. But, here we are in November. I'm betting that you still have time to make and store a delicious Christmas pudding if you get right on it.
In case you don't know, Christmas pudding is all about dried fruit. According to British pudding maker Matthew Walker, the first mention of plum pudding goes back to the 15th century--plum referring to any kind of dried fruit. It also included beef or mutton broth, breadcrumbs, spices and wine and was eaten after the fast of Advent. Today, basically, you combine dried fruit, suet, black treacle, brown sugar, and eggs with breadcrumbs and ground almonds and then pour the mixture into a pudding basin (you can still find these online), then steam. Refrigerate for at least a month, then you'll un-mold the pudding, heat it up, pour brandy over it, and light it. Impressive, no? Then you'll accompany it with some lovely brandy butter.
Jenny has substituted several of these traditional ingredients, but the recipe definitely goes back to her great-grandmother's handwritten recipe.
Jenny nostalgically references the well-worn heirloom, The Main Cookery Book, which is filled with great-grandma's notes and additional family recipes. Her recipe is tweaked a bit, but you can see Jenny's follows the general guidelines. She's got a combination of sultanas, raisins, currants, and glade cherries. She includes ground almonds like great-grandma. But molasses substitutes for the black treacle and coconut oil for suet. She mixes the wet and dry ingredients separately, then stirs them together to make the batter.
And, instead of filling a pudding basins or even ramekins, Jenny opts for glass jars.
The jars go into a water bath to cook for about an hour and a half.
Once they're removed from the oven and cool, into the fridge they go for a month or two to develop their flavors. What does it taste like? Well, Jenny gave me a couple of jars to take home and I just opened one of them. I pulled it out of the jar onto a plate, which I heated in my microwave for just a minute. Unfortunately, I had no whipped cream or brandy butter, but the pudding is lovely--chewy from the dried fruit with a dark sweetness. The brandy butter would give it a woozy deep lusciousness.
I may just make this for Christmas myself!
From Jenny Williams
4 ounces breadcrumbs
12 ounces sultanas
8 ounces raisins
8 ounces currants
2 ounces glace cherries
2 ounces ground almonds
8 ounces dark brown sugar
8 ounces black treacle/molasses
4 ounces coconut oil (instead of suet)
4 eggs, beaten
Mix all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add the beaten eggs, one at a time, stirring hard.
Leave overnight in the refrigerator and stir again.
Fill two traditional pudding bowls or 12 little ramekins with mixture.
If cooking traditionally, steam six to seven hours with parchment paper over the top. Or you can place the ramekins in a water bath (fill a high-sided pan or pot with a half-inch of water) and cook for 1 1/2 hours at 300 degrees (275 degrees for convection). The interior temperature should read 180 degrees when done.
Remove and let cool. Cover and place in the refrigerator for one to two months so the pudding can fully develop its flavor.
To serve, remove from the pudding bowl or ramekins, heat in the microwave around two minutes per pudding, let stand one minute, and serve with whipped cream or brandy butter.
Adapted by Jenny Williams from The Guardian Newspaper
Serves 10 to 12
6.5 ounces butter, diced
6.5 ounces brown sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons brandy
pinch of ground nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)
Beat the butter and brown sugar until soft. Stir in orange and lemon zest, then slowly add the brandy and spices. Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. May be frozen.