Stir it up! That’s the chorus in Britain on Stir it Up Sunday, right before Advent. Churchgoers hear, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people,” and anyone—churched or not, with a love for boozy Christmas puddings stirs up the fruity mix to get the holidays going.Loaded with spice, fruit, nuts and tradition, the Christmas “pud” is a lovely creation, more moist and mellow than American fruit cake. Since it’s fed little tipples of brandy from the day it’s made until Christmas, the treat emerges a well-spirited highlight of the Holidays. For even more tasty Holiday tradition, try our recipe for Mincemeat Tarts!
Our Christmas Pudding recipe yields one large pudding centerpiece (made with a 7.5-inch x 5.25 inch pudding mold), with enough extra batter to make six little minis to go alongside. We’ve included a bright mix of raisin, dried cranberry and apricot as the fruit base, but you can sub in sultanas or currants, dried cherries, figs or dates. Because the traditional “mixed spice” used to make British Christmas puddings isn’t readily available as a blend here, we’ve incorporated it in the recipe as separate spices, along with a simple and delicious method for making your own candied citrus peel. To finish the pudding, you can cloak the finished pudding in a glaze of our brandy cream, or, simply dust it with a little powdered sugar snow. We’ve garnished with true sprigs of holly (the customary topper which represents the crown of thorns,) but if you do the same, be careful not to let the berries touch the treat—they’re not edible.
Adjusting beloved British pud recipes for American larders, our recipe gives you the quantities in cups and tablespoons. We’ve made it with frozen butter, rather than suet (although you can sub in a bit of suet if you like that savory flavor.) And if you don’t have a steamed pudding mold on the shelf, you can use a 6-cup mixing bowl. For the minis, I found little metal pudding molds online, but you can also use porcelain ramekins in a ¾-cup size. Note: There is a little leeway in how much you fill the molds. If you use smaller molds for the minis, just be sure not to fill them beyond 2/3rds full. There is enough space in the 6-cup pudding mold to fill with the main pudding batter, plus what you don’t put in the minis.
- One, 6-cup pudding mold, with fitted lid OR 6-cup mixing bowl, with greased parchment paper and aluminum foil to make a lid, and kitchen twine to tie around the wrapped mold, plus six ¾ cup mini pudding molds or ramekins, with greased parchment paper and aluminum foil to make lids, and kitchen twine to tie around the wrapped mold.
- Two large stock pots to steam the puddings; one for the 6-cup mold, and one for the six minis.
- FOR THE MARINATED DRIED FRUIT:
- 1 cup black Thompson seedless raisins
- 1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into small dice
- Juice of ½ orange to make 3 Tbsp (reserve orange peel to make candied peel, recipe below)
- Juice of ½ lemon to make 2 Tbsp (reserve lemon peel to make candied peel, recipe below)
- 2/3 cup cream sherry or ruby port
- FOR THE CANDIED CITRUS PEEL:
- Peel of 2 fresh oranges, with much of the white pith removed, diced small to make 2/3 cup
- Peel of 1 fresh lemon, with much of the white pith removed, diced small to make 1/3 cup
- ½ cup sugar
- FOR THE BATTER:
- 2/3 cup self-rising flour
- ¼ tsp ground clove
- ¼ tsp ground mace
- ¼ tsp ground coriander
- ¼ tsp ground Jamaican allspice
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground caraway seed
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp salt
- 2/3 cup frozen unsalted butter, grated (substitute 1/3 cup of shredded beef suet for 1/3 of the butter if you like)
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- 3 slices of fresh brown bread, crusts removed and discarded, bread torn into tiny bits
- ½ cup toasted, finely chopped pecans
- 2 large eggs
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 2/3 cup stout
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- FOR GREASING THE PUDDING MOLDS:
- ½ stick softened butter, or, ½ cup solid vegetable shortening
- FOR THE BRANDY CREAM:
- ½ stick (1/4 cup) salted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 2 cups whole milk
- ¼ cup superfine sugar
- 5 Tbsp brandy
- Make fruit mixture:
- In a large, non-reactive bowl, combine the raisins, dried cranberries, chopped apricot, and chopped apple with the orange and lemon juices and sherry. Mix. Set aside while you make the candied citrus peel.
- In a small saucepot over medium high heat, cover the finely diced orange and lemon peel with 2 inches of water. Heat to boiling, and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain peel out and discard water. Replace cooked peel in pot, cover with a second batch of fresh water, heat to boiling and simmer for another 15 minutes. Strain peel out and discard water. Repeat one more time. Now, heat ½ cup sugar and ¼ cup water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for three minutes. Add the cooked citrus peel, reduce heat to low and continuing simmering, stirring occasionally until the peels are translucent and the liquid becomes a syrup. Scoop candied citrus into the bowl of marinating dried fruit. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to marinate for 24 hours.
- Make batter:
- Sift flour with sugar, salt and spices into a large bowl. Add crumbled bread. Stir in the fat (butter, and suet--if using) and chopped pecans. Whisk egg and honey with the stout and milk. Stir into the dry ingredients. (This is where traditionally, each family member gets to give the bowl a stir : )
- Spoon all of the fruit mixture into the batter and stir to incorporate.
- Prepare and fill pudding molds: Using softened butter or solid vegetable shortening, copiously grease the inside of each mold. Starting with the mini pudding molds, fill each with about ½ cup of the mixture, making sure each mold or ramekin is no more than ¾ full. Smooth tops to level. Spoon the rest of the pudding mixture into the large mold. Remaining batter should fill the mold about two-thirds of the way. Smooth top to level. Cut and grease rounds of parchment paper to place on the top of each mold. Cover with lid (if using a pudding mold that comes with a lid) or, cover each mold tightly with two layers of foil. Using kitchen twine, encircle each pudding, wrapping from top around bottom and up again. Tie to create a handle. Fill each of two large pots with enough water to come ½ half the way up the sides of the molds you are steaming. Cover the pots, heat water to slow boil and steam the puddings for four to five hours, replenishing water if the level gets low.
- Remove finished puddings from steamers and cool. Remove wrappers. Prick surface of puddings with a toothpick and drizzle with a little brandy (or sherry.) Cover and store in cool, dry spot. Unwrap occasionally to drizzle with a little more brandy, until Christmas day.
- Make brandy cream:
- In a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add flour and whisk constantly to create a thick, smooth paste. Continue whisking for 1 minute. Add milk and continue whisking for three minutes to form a smooth sauce. Add sugar, whisking until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low and whisk for another five minutes. Whisk in brandy. Pour over pudding. Note: Brandy cream can be made ahead, kept in the fridge, and reheated at service.
- To serve: Remove puddings to serving plates. Prepare brandy cream to pour over, or serve on the side. Garnish with holly sprigs, being careful not to let any holly berries touch the puddings—the berries are inedible.