Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Christmas Pudding

"Pudding" is technically just what the Brits call "dessert," but Christmas pudding is a holiday tradition that appears throughout history and British literature. As I understand it, housewives would prepare the pudding ahead of time, and then start to steam cook it (often in their laundry cauldron!) when the family went to church on Christmas morning. By the time Christmas dinner was finished, so was the pudding, just in time for dessert! Who knows what process the Hogwarts house elves used, but we do know that Christmas puddings appear at the Christmas feasts:

"Flaming Christmas puddings followed the turkey. Percy nearly broke his teeth on a silver sickle embedded in his slice" (Sorcerer's Stone 203).

Dinah Bucholz does include a recipe for "Christmas pudding for Kids" in The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, but it obviously does not include brandy (which means no fire), and it is way different from any pudding recipe I've ever seen. For starters, her recipe has more than four times as much flour, which in my opinion would make it way more cake-like, and thus, more American. The major difference between cake and pudding is that pudding is so very dense. So we shall use a recipe I found at food.com, which is very British and seems very authentic and traditional. I converted the measurements from metric, so the amounts are kind of random, sorry!

You Will Need:
5.2 Tbs butter, softened (plus extra for greasing)
2 cups of mixed raisins, golden raisins, and dried cranberries
1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup brandy, plus extra for flaming
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup self-rising flour (I used all-purpose)
1 tsp ground allspice
2.8 Tbs breadcrumbs
2.8 Tbs shelled almonds, roughly chopped
Brandy Butter Sauce, to top it off!

1. Lightly butter a 2.5pint (5cups) pudding basin. Cut a small square of foil and place it in the bottom of the basin.
2. Place the dried fruit and apple into a bowl with the orange juice, add the 1/4 cup of brandy and let sit for at least 1 hour.

3. Put the 5.2 Tbs butter, sugar, and orange zest in a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the eggs. Add a little bit of flour if the mixture looks curdled.

4. Sift together the flour and spices, then add in the breadcrumbs and nuts.
5. Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture.

6. Add the fruit/liquor mixture and stir well.

7. Spoon the batter into the prepared pudding dish, pressing down, and smooth the top.

8. Cover the basin with a layer of "greaseproof paper" and foil, both pleated in the middle to allow for any expansion.
9. Tie securely with a string and cuff off any excess with scissors (I used elastic, which worked well).
10. You may either steam or boil your pudding to cook it. I don't have a steamer large enough to accommodate my pudding vessel, so I will be boiling my pudding. To boil, place a metal jam-jar lid (or small plate) upside-down in the middle of a large pot. Place your pudding basin onto this "trivet," and pour in enough boiling water to come about 1/3 up the sides of the pudding bowl.

11. Cover with a lid and bring the water back to a boil. Simmer for about 7 hours. Yes, that is correct, 7 hours. The pudding should be a lovely deep brown color. Add more water to the pot as necessary to maintain the level.

*Heads up, the water will boil away in about 1 hour, depending on the size of your pot, so do not leave it unattended too long. If you do, the kitchen will smell like whatever your jam-jar was from... mine was from Greek olives... yes, I did learn this the hard way, and I accidentally anodized the metals and wrecked my pot.*

12. Remove the pudding from the pot and allow it to cool completely.
13. Make some holes in the pudding with a fine skewer and fill them with a little brandy, "to feed it."
14. Discard the paper and foil and replace it with fresh ones. Store in a cool, dry place. Brits recommend making it as much as 6-8 weeks ahead of time! Talk about getting better with age!
15. On Christmas day, steam or boil the pudding for about an hour to reheat it.
16. Turn the pudding out onto a serving plate.
17. To flame, warm 3-4 Tbs brandy in a saucepan and pour over the pudding. Then carefully use a lighter to set it ablaze!

image stolen from the Internet... mine didn't flame long enough for a photo

18. Serve with rum sauce or brandy butter (a recipe for brandy butter can be found here).
mine is rather less sophisticated looking than I expected...

Christmas pudding is very tasty (and very grown-up tasting...mmm, brandy...). Though I do recommend to either use the brandy butter right out of the fridge to "frost" the pudding, or to just spoon it over individual servings :)


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