Everyone has a favourite home-made treat at Christmas time. For sure, the Christmas Pudding has to be up there with the best.
My Mum has beautiful recipe book that was handwritten by her mother. It’s filled with the recipes that have become our celebration meals and shaped our shared history – including Christmas Pudding.
It’s a wonderful thing to be now cooking these recipes for my family and friends. The recipes travel with me and make up some of my cook-them-with-my-eyes-closed celebration standards.
The first Christmas we lived in Finland I managed to convince the Finn’s family to have Christmas twice (it wasn’t that hard to do).
The first Christmas would be on the 24th, the traditional day for the Scandinavians, and the second would be on the 25th featuring the best an Australian Christmas had to offer – including the Christmas Pudding. Our cousin excelled himself and cooked one of the best turkeys I’ve ever eaten – I think I may have started a tradition.
The pudding was unfamiliar to all, which made it even more exciting when I revealed the giant, cloth-wrapped behemoth and told them I needed a serving plate that wouldn’t crack if it was set on fire.
454 grams of fresh breadcrumbs (homemade, not the ultra-fine store bought kind – these will not work, put them back)
340 grams of unsalted butter, softened
113 grams of plain flour
340 grams of brown sugar
454 grams of currants
454 grams of raisins
113 grams of mixed peel
8 large eggs
1 wine glass of brandy (approx 150 mls)
Teaspoon of salt
1 pudding cloth, plus extra flour for dusting.
Clean pudding coins (for luck)
NOTE: The weights are a little strange as the original recipe is measured in Imperial weights.
This recipe works brilliantly halved if you’re not feeding a horde. Just adjust the cooking time by half plus 30 minutes.
To make the bread crumbs begin the day before. Take a fresh plain loaf of bread, regular store-bought sliced white actually works the best. Empty the slices into a bowl and cover with a cloth. Leave to bread to go stale overnight.
The next day crumble the bread in to rough crumbs. The crumbs don’t need to be very small, just even and no larger than your thumb nail. Rubbing the bread lightly between your hands in a circular motion gives good results. Huzzah! Crumbs.
Start early in the day. (You’ll see why below)
Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and continue to mix until well combined. Don’t panic if the mixture begins to split, the dry ingredients will help it all reincorporate.
Add the flour and salt and mix well. Add the fruit and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
Now, this is the important part. Add the brandy at once and stir. It’s tradition with this pudding for each family member to take a turn at mixing in the brandy and make a Christmas wish for their effort – proceed.
Once combined and wishes complete you can add pudding coins if you want to. Mix again.
How to prepare your pudding cloth
In a large saucepan place a heat proof plate and cover with water. Bring to the boil.
Lay out your clean and dry pudding cloth onto a table or the kitchen bench. Sprinkle the surface with flour and using your hands evenly spread the flour across the cloth. Get ready to wrap.
Working quickly scrape the pudding mixture into a mound on the pudding cloth, bring up the edges of the cloth, forming a slightly squat ball and tie the cloth firmly with cotton roasting twine. Tie it as tightly as you can. Make a loop in the end of the twine to hang the pudding from later.
Once tied, lower your pudding into the boiling water and top up to cover. The pudding will float, so don’t worry of the top isn’t entirely covered. Pop a lid on top and boil for (wait for it) 6-7 hours.
Once the time has passed turn off the stove and gently lift the pudding from its bath. Hold it over a bowl until the cooking water has stopped dripping. The pudding now needs to hang in a cool breezy location to dry out and form a skin. It can last for months, but over the years, we’ve been known to whip it up a week before Christmas and the result is just as good.
To serve the pudding it will need to be reheated in a pot of boiling water for an hour until warmed through. Now comes the fancy part. Gently unwrap your pudding and invert onto a flame-resistant serving plate.
Gently heat half a cup of brandy right before you’re ready to present the pudding. Don’t let it boil.
The Brave and the Bold
There a two ways to do this. One: pour the warmed brandy over the pudding and light it with a match. The pudding will ignite and dazzle your guests with a stunning blue flame for a few minutes. Once the flames and applause have died down cut into generous slices and serve with cream, custard, ice cream or more brandy.
Two: (My preferred method) pour half the warmed brandy over the pudding. Take a match and light the remaining brandy in the saucepan. Take control of the elements and pour bright living flame onto the pudding and make it the best Christmas ever! (Photos to come)
Again: Once the flames and applause have died down cut into generous slices and serve with cream, custard, ice cream or more brandy.
From my family to yours, Merry Christmas – Hyvää joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta!