Often called “plum pudding”—despite the fact that it contains no plums whatsoever—steamed pudding was first recorded as “Christmas Pudding” in 1858 and later popularized in the carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
The name is probably derived from the substitution of raisins for dried plums as an ingredient in pies during medieval times. In the 16thand 17thcenturies, dishes made with raisins retained the term “plum,” and in the Victorian era, Christmas plum puddings became a well-loved dessert.
Curiously, plum pudding was a latecomer to Ireland, but it caught on quickly and replaced its plainer boiled pudding cousins; to this day it’s one of the most traditional of all Christmas dishes. Not to be confused with fruitcake, it’s actually more like a dense spice cake, and this recipe uses butter rather than the traditional suet.
Serve it warm with Brandy Hard Sauce. You’ll find more holiday recipes in my cookbook Christmas Flavors of Ireland; signed copies available on www.irishcook.com
SERVES 10 TO 12
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup candied cherries, halved
1/3 cup chopped candied pineapple
1/2 cup brandy or dark rum
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large egg whites
1/3 cup pecan halves
2 tablespoons Irish whiskey
- In a large glass bowl, combine raisins, candied fruit and brandy; cover and let stand at room temperature for 3 days.
- Butter a 6-cup pudding mold or deep, heatproof casserole dish. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, orange rind, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
- In a large bowl, beat brown sugar and butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg whites and beat well. With a wooden spoon, stir in half of flour mixture, then half of fruit mixture. Repeat, stirring in remaining flour and fruit; stir in pecans. Spoon batter into prepared mold, cover with parchment or waxed paper, then cover tightly with foil. Tie the foil in place with kitchen twine.
- Place mold in a stockpot or Dutch oven fitted with a rack, or place a folded kitchen towel on bottom of pot to prevent direct contact with the bottom of the pot. Add enough hot water to pot to come halfway up sides. Cover and steam on medium-low heat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. (Check water level once or twice during cooking and add more water when necessary).
- Carefully remove pudding mold from pot; remove foil and parchment and run a metal spatula around sides to loosen. Place a serving plate over mold and invert; drizzle whiskey over top. Slice and serve warm. (If not serving immediately, let pudding cool, covered, in mold. When completely cool, unmold, wrap in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Refrigerate pudding for up to 1 week or freeze. To serve, put pudding back into mold, cover with wax paper or foil, and steam for 1 hour, as above, or until heated through. Thaw frozen pudding before reheating as above).
BRANDY HARD SAUCE
MAKES ABOUT 1 CUP
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons brandy
In a small bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the brandy and beat until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl or crock, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days; bring back to room temperature before serving.