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Prepare for the holidays ahead...

Plan, cook and store celebratory desserts now

Posted: October 29, 2013 - 3:13pm  |  Updated: October 31, 2013 - 9:25am

For the past few months, I’ve been “playing” with holiday puddings and desserts – four of them to be exact. Two of the desserts, Christmas Pudding and Fig Jam-Pecan Cake with Bourbon, require pre-planning and several weeks of storing before they should be eaten, while the two others, Date-Nut Sticky Toffee Pudding and Figgy Pudding, may be steamed and eaten the same day they are prepared. Over the next few weeks, you may expect to see these recipes, with details sufficient to make them fun, rather than a chore to prepare. I started with Christmas Pudding, something I’ve never made before and for which you’ll need beef suet. (Beef suet is the fat surrounding the kidney and loin area.) And, don’t be squeamish about the suet – quality suet does not taste like typical beef fat and will give your pudding the texture and velvety mouth-feel that made Victorian-era puddings legendary. If you know a good butcher, finding suet shouldn’t prove a challenge. Authentic English-style Christmas Pudding is traditionally served at Christmas Day dinner, with the mixing of the pudding taking place on “Stir-up Sunday,” (the last Sunday before Advent), which, this year, falls on November 24. Enjoy Christmas Pudding with hard sauce, made with butter, sugar and some spirits, or if you prefer, English Cream.

 

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.

 

Christmas Pudding

2¾ cups mixed dried fruit (such as raisins and currants)

¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons chopped candied mixed fruit peel

(For the purposes of this recipe, I used European Candied Mixed Peel, available from King Arthur Flour, www.kingarthurflour.com, 1-800-827-6836)

¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons chopped candied cherries

½ cup blanched slivered almonds,

1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and grated

1 small carrot, peeled and grated

1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

¾ cup (about 4 ounces) finely chopped suet

¼ cup, plus 2 teaspoons orange juice

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups fresh soft bread crumbs (process 4 slices bread in a food processor or blender until crumbs are formed)

½ cup dark brown sugar

½ teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1 cup brandy, divided

¼ cup, plus 2 teaspoons orange juice

 

In a large, deep bowl, combine the dried fruit, candied peel, cherries, almonds, apple, carrot, orange and lemon peel and suet, tossing well. Stir in flour, bread crumbs, brown sugar, allspice and salt. In a separate bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Stir in ½ cup brandy and the orange juice. Pour the egg mixture over the fruit mixture, kneading with both hands until well mixed. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 12 hours, or overnight.

 

Butter a 2-quart pudding mold (including the lid), pressing the pudding mixture down into the mold with the back of a wooden spoon; fill the mold within 2-inches of the top. Cover the pudding with the mold’s lid. (If your mold is not equipped with a lid, cover the mold with buttered aluminum foil turning the edges of the foil down and pressing it tightly against the mold’s sides. Tie the foil onto the mold with kitchen string to secure.) Place the pudding on a rack set inside a large kettle (or Dutch oven). Pour enough water into the kettle to come about three-quarters of the way up the sides of the mold. Bring the water to a boil, cover pot tightly and reduce heat to its lowest point. Steam for 8 hours, checking water supply to replenish, as needed. After 8 hours, remove the pudding from the pot and allow to cool to room temperature. (If you’ve used foil as a cover, remove the foil. Place a buttered round of parchment paper over the pudding, then tightly seal with foil. Tie kitchen string around the foil.)

 

Store in a cool, dry place until Christmas Day. On Christmas Day, you will again steam the mold in the same way you cooked it, this time steaming for 1½ hours. To serve, run a knife around the inside edges of the mold and invert onto a serving platter.

To set pudding aflame, warm 1/2 cup brandy in a small saucepan over low heat. Pour warmed brandy into a long-handled ladle, carefully ignite it, then pour - flaming - over the pudding. Serve pudding topped with English cream or hard sauce. Makes 8 servings.

English Cream

1 cup granulated sugar

Pinch salt

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 cups half and half

6 large egg yolks, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Place the sugar, salt and cornstarch in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually stir in half and half and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken; turn heat to low. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Pour about ¾ cup of the half and half mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly. (You do not want to curdle your eggs, so be sure to keep stirring during this step.) Add the egg mixture back to the mixture in the saucepan, stirring until the mixture is the consistency of mayonnaise, about 1 minute more. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour mixture into a glass bowl, placing a piece of plastic wrap over the surface.

(This will keep a skin from forming on top of your cream.) Chill, removing plastic wrap when ready to serve. Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Makes about 3 cups.

 

Hard Sauce

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1½ cups confectioners’ sugar

Pinch salt

3 tablespoons brandy

 

Combine butter, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Add brandy, a tablespoon at a time, stirring until smooth. Can be made ahead (up to 2 days), if stored well-covered in the refrigerator. If making sauce ahead, bring to room temperature before using; sauce should be smooth and easily spooned for serving with Christmas Pudding.

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