Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Oh Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding"...only if you're over 21!

English Tudor Christmas Carolers
Back in the 18th century (and a couple centuries before) when caroler's sang out "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and implored, "Oh bring us some figgy pudding," and warned, "We won't go until we get some" and demanded, "So bring it right here," they were calling out for a Christmas pudding imbued with tradition...and quite a bit of alcohol. Figgy Pudding, AKA Christmas Pudding, AKA Plum Pudding, AKA Christmas Pottage, is brought to us from 17th century England and, as this writer can attest from personal experience, can be prepared today with as much or as little Christmas spirit (spirits) as the intended audience requires. I am sure those merry-makers of old, caroling from door to door on cold December evenings, were warmed by both the goodwill and alcohol content of their beloved pudding.

As with all things setting Christmas apart from any other time of the year, the Puritans banned Christmas Pudding (way too festive for those folks.) It came back to roaring popularity with the reign of King George I of England who loved it and who became known (along with other less endearing names, especially here in the Colonies) as the "Pudding King." The king included the pudding in his royal Christmas feast of 1714 when he first arrived from Hanover and taken the throne.

Tradition has it that each member of the family should have a hand in the preparation with each taking a turn to stir from "East to West" to represent the Magi on their journey from East to West to find and honor the Christ Child. Admittedly I am most directionally challenged so, living on the east coast of America, I suppose I would just have the stirring be done counterclockwise.

Christmas Pudding from Wikipedia
Below are directions for the pudding you can prepare yourself anytime during the season (it keeps a loooong time.) Traditional recipes include suet but this one leaves it out. Having made pudding with suet, I can assure you the pudding will be fine without it! Thanks to and baker, Dorrie Greenspan, for this recipe. Enjoy!

Figgy/Christmas/Plum Pudding

Dorie Greenspan, author of Baking: From My Home to Yours, created this recipe for figgy Christmas pudding fo rAll Things Considered.
Makes 8 to 10 servings

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
1/3 cup brandy, cognac or rum, to flame the pudding (optional)
Softly whipped, lightly sweetened heavy cream, vanilla ice cream or applesauce, homemade or store-bought, for serving (optional)
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.
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.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt and keep at hand.
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.
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.) 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.
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.
Flaming Figgy Pudding from Wikipedia
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 with whipped cream, ice cream or applesauce.
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.
Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!



Bevan Wasserman said...

I am tempted to try and make this! Just for fun.

Kathryn Louise Wood said...

Bevan, it's the perfect cold weather, cozy, indoor project!