Tuesday, December 20, 2011
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite..."Now, bring us some figgy pudding and bring some out here". I'm sure you've heard this secular carol, but have you ever had the pudding the carolers demanded as a reward for their singing? Both the carol and the pudding have stories that are intertwined. In old England, groups of traveling singers would entertain the wealthy for food or pay. These groups were called "waits" and they were extremely popular at Christmastime. There was a Christian tradition of showering them with gifts to thank them for their music. "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" is one of the songs they used to regale their listeners and Christmas pudding is one of the foods used to reward them for their performance. The tradition and this carol were resurrected in Victorian England by carolers who included the song in their repertoire. The distribution of the pudding is even older than the carol and dates back to to 16th century. At that time, the Catholic Church decreed that it should be made on the Sunday before the beginning of Advent, also known as Stir-Up Day. The pudding traditionally would contain 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles. Every member of the family was expected to help stir the pudding , rotating from east to west to commemorate the path traveled by the Magi as they searched for the Christ child. As time went on, coins and other small treasure were buried in the batter and steamed with the pudding. These tokens were thought to bring luck to the person who found them. I've shared another version of Christmas pudding with you, as well as one for a Three Kings Cake that is intended especially for children. I wanted to try a new version this year and as soon as I read Dorie Greenspan's recipe I knew I found what I was looking for. It sounded delicious, though the amount of brandy and rum used in its preparation, make it a truly adult affair. There are lots recipes that soak fruit before adding it to the ingredient mix. The figs and raisins used here are truly soused. If quizzed, many folks express their dislike of fruitcake or Christmas puddings. I'm not a missionary and my intent is not to dissuade them, but I'd love to have them try this version before they completely rule out those desserts. This pudding is like a spice cake that is used to hold fruit and nuts in suspension. It is really lovely. I made two changes to the recipe that I have not noted below. I used a well greased pudding mold instead of a bundt pan to make our pudding. I also added a cup of toasted walnuts to the batter. I flamed the the figs and raisins as suggested by the recipe and I will flame the pudding at the table when I serve it on Christmas Day. I hope you'll give this a try. I think you'll love it. It is a perfect way to end an English-style Christmas dinner. Here's how it is made.
Figgy Pudding...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Dorie Greenspan
12 plump dried Calymyrna figs, snipped into small pieces
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup dark rum
1/3 cup cognac or brandy
1/2 cup raisins
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 (packed) cup brown sugar
2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (made from about 8 inches of baguette)
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup dried cranberries
Optional: 1/3 cup brandy, cognac or rum, to flame the pudding
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or applesauce for serving
1) Getting ready: You’ll need a tube pan with a capacity of 8 to 10 cups — a Bundt or Kugelhopf pan is perfect here — and a stock pot that can hold the pan. (If you’ve got a lobster pot, use that; it’ll be nice and roomy.) Put a double thickness of paper toweling in the bottom of the pot — it will keep the pudding from jiggling too much while it’s steaming. Spray the tube pan with cooking spray, then butter it generously, making sure to give the center tube a good coating
2) Put the figs and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and, keeping an eye on the pan, cook until the water is almost evaporated. Add the cognac or brandy, rum and raisins and bring the liquids back to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, make sure it’s in an open space, have a pot cover at hand and, standing back, set the liquid aflame. Let the flames burn for 2 minutes, then extinguish them by sealing the pan with the pot cover. For a milder taste, burn the rum and brandy until the flames die out on their own. Set the pan aside uncovered.
3) Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt and keep at hand.
4) Working in a mixing bowl with a whisk, beat the eggs and brown sugar together until well blended. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the bread crumbs, followed by the melted butter and the fig mixture (liquids included). Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and gently mix them in — you’ll have a thick batter. Fold in the cherries and cranberries.
5) Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and seal the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Set the pan into the stock pot and fill the pot with enough hot water to come one-half to two-thirds of the way up the sides of the baking pan. Bring the water to a boil, then cover the pot tightly with foil and the lid. Lower the heat so that the water simmers gently, and steam the pudding for 2 hours. (Check to make sure that the water level isn’t getting too low; fill with more water, if necessary.)
6) Carefully remove the foil sealing the pot — open the foil away from you to protect your arms and face — and then take off the foil covering the pan. To test that the pudding is done, stick a skewer or thin knife into the center of the pudding — the skewer or knife should come out dry.
7) To remove the pudding from the pan (a tricky operation), I find it easiest to carefully empty the water into the sink, and then carefully ease the baking pan out on its side. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the pudding cool for 5 minutes. Detach the pudding from the sides of the pan using a kitchen knife, if necessary, then gently invert it onto the rack. Allow the pudding to cool for 30 minutes.
8) If you’d like to flame the pudding — nothing’s more dramatic — warm 1/3 cup of brandy, cognac or rum in a saucepan over medium heat. Pour the warm liquid over the top of the pudding, and then, taking every precaution that Smokey Bear would, set a match to the alcohol. When the flames die out, cut the pudding into generous pieces. Actually, there’s so much fruit in the pudding, the only way to cut neat slices is to make the slices generous. Serve the pudding warm with whipped cream, ice cream or apple sauce. Alternatively, you can cool the pudding completely, wrap it very well in several layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to two weeks. When you are ready to serve, butter the pan the pudding was cooked in, slip the pudding back into the pan, seal the pan with foil, and re-steam for 45 minutes. Yield: 8 to 10 servings.
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