Flaming Christmas Plum Pudding!
Coming Your Way in a Blaze of Glory
My husband Steve is an Englishman, and at Christmastime I like to treat him to some of his favorites like Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding, Stilton cheese with a nice port, etc. Yorkshire Pudding is very much like a savory turnover, the batter is poured into the sizzling hot beef drippings and then it puffs up dramatically in a very hot oven. Then there is the goody known as Plum Pudding, which is a spice cake full of dried fruits that is steamed instead of baked, then set ablaze by pouring brandy lit with a match over the whole thing. I first made it last Christmas and loved every bite, so I’ve given it some thought and simplified the recipe as much as I could for the parameters of The Minimalist Cook.
Here’s the nutshell process:
- Mix up the batter
- Pour it into a greased pot/mold
- Cover with a tight waterproof lid
- Set into a pot deep and wide enough to hold the mold
- Steam the pudding for five hours or so
- Let the pudding sit a bit, then unmold
- Heat up brandy, light with a match, and pour over the pudding when ready to serve
First you need to line up the equipment to do it right, which is the bowl or mold, a tight-fitting lid, and a lidded pot big enough to encase the mold while it steams. There are pudding molds, which are generally metal with tight-fitting lids, and there are pudding basins, which are ceramic and a bit like clay flower pots in shape with the wide rim around the top. The rim is useful for tying a string around the foil and parchment paper you place on top of the basin as a lid.
I actually own a pudding mold and learned the hard way to distinguish between 2 litres and 2 quarts. In true American fashion my recipe doesn’t just make a pudding, it makes a BIG pudding. You want your pudding mold to have about 2″ of extra room at the top because it expands while it cooks. My recipe filled my pudding mold almost to the top. About halfway through the steaming process, the lid blew off and it was a challenge to keep the pudding covered in the steaming pot so that it wouldn’t get waterlogged. Live and learn.
Note that the pudding mold lid has a ring at the top–that is to help set in or remove the pot without having to burn your hands in the steam. A sturdy wire coat hanger is ideal for catching the ring. Otherwise you might have to plan on creating some kind of lift such as a long thick strip of aluminum foil. Or you can do what I did and set the mold in the pasta strainer basket of a big pasta/stock pot.
This year I did not use the pudding mold, but instead used a 2-quart stainless steel mixing bowl (a smaller version of this one). It fit inside my pasta pot, it had enough room at the top for the pudding to expand, and it wasn’t going to react badly with the port-soaked raisins. It also had a rim around the top, which provided some way to tightly tie on the parchment and foil cover. This is considered a perfectly acceptable way to steam a Christmas Pud, and I heartily recommend it as a way to prevent accumulating single-task gadgets.
There are a zillion great Christmas pudding recipes. Some take days to prepare, some are like fruitcakes, made far in advanced and intentionally aged. I like this recipe because it can be made the day you want to serve it or can be made a week in advance, and the raisins are plumped up in port, which really goes well with the warm and tawny spices and citrus zest.
Flaming Christmas Plum Pudding
- 1 c raisins
- 1 c port (regular, tawny, ruby, whaddever you got, or even sherry)
–and warm up for a minute in the microwave. Let this sit for about an hour. Longer doesn’t hurt.
Cream together in a large bowl:
- 2 sticks softened butter
- 1 c sugar
- 1 c flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
–and mix in thoroughly, then mix in:
- 4 lightly beaten eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 c dark brown sugar
That makes the batter that holds everything together. Now for the fun stuff, which you can mix in one at a time or all at once, whichever way works for you:
- the port-soaked raisins and the remaining port
- 1 c grated carrots (two medium carrots)
- 1 1/2 c chopped pecans (or walnuts, as you prefer)
- 2 c chopped mixed dried fruit (prunes, apricots, pears, apples, dates, etc.–use the good ready to eat kind, not hard and dried out ones)
- zest of 1 orange
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or some combination of nutmeg, cloves, etc.)
- 1 c breadcrumbs
Now spray or butter the bowl you want to use for the mold, and pour in the pudding batter. Cover it with a sheet of parchment paper, and cover the paper with a sheet of aluminum foil. Tie it tightly under the rim with cooking or cotton twine, and trim off the excess paper and foil, leaving about an inch below the twine.
If you are using a pasta pot, set the pudding mold in the strainer basket. Add enough water to the pot so that it comes halfway up the pudding mold. Bring the water to a boil, set in the strainer with the pudding mold, put the lid on the pot, and turn the heat down to low. Let it steam for 5 hours, occasionally checking to make sure the water doesn’t evaporate and wreck your pot.
After five hours, remove the pudding mold from the water and let it rest for 30-40 minutes. Uncover, gently run a spatula around the edges, and unmold the pudding onto the serving plate. It’ll probably release very quickly. Leave the mold on the pudding while it cools, to retain its wonderful moistness. When it is completely cool, wrap it up and keep in the refrigerator until you need it. The unmolded pudding will look like this:
Ho Ho Ho! Naked Plum Pudding
Plum puddings are traditionally served with some sort of Hard Sauce. There are about a zillion good Hard Sauce recipes, too, but Steve prefers a simple white sauce flavored with vanilla:
Hard Sauce for Christmas Pudding
- 1 stick softened butter
- 1 c sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 Tb brandy (optional)
Beat well and add a little milk if needed. It should be light and of of whipped-cream consistency. Put a dollop of it on the top of the pudding when it is warm and after its been “fired.”
Plum puddings are reheated by steaming them again for about an hour, so if you need to make yours in advance, plan ahead as well for the reheating time. This is a rich concoction, so it is best to serve it in very small slices as opposed to big wedges.
When you’re ready to serve, heat up @ 1/4 cup of brandy in a glass measuring cup (30 seconds in the microwave), and light it with a match. You’ll have a measuring cup full of blue flames! Darken the room as much as you can and pour the flaming brandy over the top of the cake. It is traditional to applaud its approach to the dinner table. This is so cool:
Not a Waste of Perfectly Good Brandy
Happy Holidays From Meg & Steve