Happy Christmas ~ English Christmas Pudding

I decided to explore my British heritage a little this December by making Christmas pudding. It is also called plum pudding, but the interesting thing I learned is that there are no plums in the dish. The pre-Victorian use of the word “plum” meant “raisins,” and it does have plenty of those!

I love the tradition of making a wish as you stir the pudding. It is also traditional to pour brandy on the top of the pudding, light it, and bring it to the table with a flame. It produces a subtle, but pretty blue color. There is so much history in this little dish. I found it fascinating to take part in a tradition my great-grandparents and their parents probably also took part in.

I based my puddings on a recipe from the BBC. I halved the recipe, and made individual puddings in 6 small 8-ounce ramekins. I replaced the Bramley apple with a Granny Smith, since Bramleys are not readily available to us in the States. I only used 4 ounces of butter for half of the recipe, since American butter is packaged in 4-ounce (or 113 gram) sticks. It was a little less than half of what the recipe called for, but it was plenty. I only needed to steam the puddings for 3 hours instead of 8 since I made them in the small ramekins rather than larger bowls. I also used a simple glaze of powdered sugar and cognac instead of the buttered version.

I’ll leave the recipe in the metric format to keep it authentically British. 🙂

Classic Christmas pudding

Recipe based on BBC Good Food

25g (about 1 oz) blanched almonds

1 large Granny Smith apple

100g (3.5 oz) box candied peel (in large pieces) or all citron if you can find it

1 whole nutmeg (you’ll use a little over 1/4 of it)

500g (18 oz) raisins

70g (2.5 oz) all-purpose flour

50g (1.75 oz) soft fresh white breadcrumbs

50g (1.75 oz) light muscovado sugar, crumbled if it looks lumpy

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1 tbsp brandy or cognac, plus extra to flame and for glaze

113g (4 oz) packet butter, taken straight from the fridge

Confectioner’s sugar for glaze

Get everything prepared. Chop the almonds coarsely. Peel, core and chop the apple. Sharpen your knife and chop the candied peel. (You can chop the almonds and apple in a food processor, but the peel must be done by hand.) Grate a little over 1/4 of the nutmeg. Mix all the ingredients for the pudding, except the butter, in a large bowl.

Holding the butter in its wrapper, grate a quarter of it into the bowl, and then stir everything together. Repeat until all the butter is grated, then stir for 3-4 minutes – the mixture is ready when it subsides slightly after each stir. Ask the family to stir too, and get everyone to make a wish.

Generously butter six 226 g (8 ounce) ramekins and put a disc of greaseproof paper in the bottom of each. Pack in the pudding mixture. Cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper or baking parchment, pleating it to allow for expansion, then tie with string (keep the paper in place with a rubber band while tying). Trim off any excess paper.

Now stand each bowl on a large sheet of foil and bring the edges up over the top, then put another sheet of foil over the top and bring it down underneath to make a double package (this makes the puddings watertight). Tie with more string, and make a handle for easy lifting in and out of the pan.

Steam the puddings for 3 hours, topping up with water as necessary. (I used a big pot with a steamer basket on the stovetop, taking care to keep the puddings above the water.) Remove from the pan and leave to cool overnight. When cold, discard the messy wrappings and re-wrap in spanking new greaseproof or baking parchment, foil and string. Store in a cool, dry place until Christmas.

On Christmas Day, steam until warmed through. (Microwaving also works in a pinch.) Unwrap and turn out. To flame, warm 3-4 tbsp brandy in a small pan, pour it over the pudding and set light to it.

Top with a glaze of brandy or cognac and powdered sugar. Add a little brandy at a time to the sugar until the glaze is to the consistency you like. Pour the glaze over the puddings before serving.

Happy Christmas!

PS. The top photo has a faint blue cognac flame on my Christmas pudding. 🙂 Click on the picture for a closer view.

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