British Christmas Pudding with Brandy Sauce
The British Christmas Pudding (also known as ‘plum pudding’ or ‘figgy pudding) is a dense and delicious dessert made with dried fruit soaked in brandy, mixed with seasonal spices and other ingredients. It is then steamed and served with brandy cream sauce, creating an utterly delectable and truly timeless dessert for Christmas dinner.
This traditional British puddings, Sweet Mince Pies and Brandy Snaps were ever present my home during Christmas time and it brings back such fond memories for me growing up during the holiday season. This is how Christmas looked, much like a postcard (referencing the picture). The highlight was a dense, fruity pudding covered with brandy, set alight, smothered with a rich brandy sauce, and adorned with a sprig of holly.
The traditional of Christmas pudding
It is believed that it started its life as ‘pottage’, which is a soupy consistency of dried fruits, wine and spices in the Victorian era (in addition, a mention in the Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol). It is supposed to have 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his Disciples (I couldn’t stick to this because I did not want to sacrifice flavor and texture).
You’ll notice that I referred to this as plum pudding or figgy pudding. Surprisingly, it has no plums or figs, unlike its inception when that concoction was light years away from the recipe we know and love today. This might be because it’s easier to find the usual currants and raisins compared to the former.
Another tradition was to add a sixpence (an old English silver coin worth 6 pennies) to the mix to bring luck to the person who finds it. As cool as it sounds, I will not be continuing this tradition as I don’t really feel like metal seeping into my food.
How Christmas pudding is made
Everyone has their own favorite way to make it. It is typically started at least a month before eating. This is to allow the flavors to infuse and intensify. It starts with marinating dried fruit like dark and golden raisins, apple, candied orange peel and lemon peel nuts (I like almonds) in brandy for 24 hours.
The next day, after the dry ingredients are mixed together, the wet ingredients (eggs and brown sugar) are added. At this stage, you can steam right away, or wrap up well and store in a cool dry place until ready to steam.
Preparing Christmas pudding for steaming
To achieve it’s distinct shape, a 1 quart pudding bowl (2 pint pudding basin) is used. Making sure the pudding mixture is well sealed with circle of parchment paper and aluminum foil (aluminium for my friends in the United Kingdom) tied with string around the top of the basin. They is the key to the best Christmas pudding outcome. You do not want any water to seep in while steaming.
Tips for steaming Christmas pudding
The key items that are needed for the best results are, a large pan with lid, riser of some kind (to keep the bowl off the bottom of the pan). Enough water to come halfway up the bowl and maintaining this water level throughout the 7 hours of steaming. A glass lid helps monitor this.
How to cook Christmas pudding
It is always steamed using a thick, ceramic bowl called a pudding basin, which gives it its distinctive shape. Once the dough is added to the bowl, it is tightly covered with parchment paper and foil tied with string, then steamed in a large pan for 7 hours. Yep, not a misprint… 7 hours!
Alcohol free Christmas pudding
Even though this is an alcohol-laden dessert, I grew up in the days when it was ‘OK’ to have a little sherry at Christmas as a kid, so eating this was definitely not a big deal. If you’re not a fan of serving this to young children, you can replace the brandy with orange juice or apple juice.
Best alcohol for Christmas pudding
Brandy is traditional, as is sherry, and you can also use Cognac.
Brandy sauce recipe
The additional brandy sauce is a must to accompany the pudding. It is made with just a few ingredients (butter, flour, milk, creamy, sugar and, of course, brandy) that is served by pouring over the top of the pudding.
Make ahead Christmas pudding recipe
The pudding is best when made ahead, way ahead. You can make the mix up to a year ahead as it just gets better with age. I think it tastes just as good if made only days or weeks ahead.
I like to make and steam the pudding about a week or so before Christmas Day. When it is cooled, wrap in parchment paper and a layer of foil and refrigerate. The night before you’re serving leave on the counter at room temperature, still wrapped. Warm (while wrapped) in a 300°F/150°C oven for 30-45 minutes.
How to serve British Christmas Pudding with Brandy Sauce
Traditionally, a little brandy is poured over and ignited which results in a beautiful blue and orange glow (see picture). Sliced, served on on a plate with warm brandy cream sauce (or fresh cream). Come to think of it… a mug of Baileys Belgian Hot Chocolate would also complement it nicely!
Storing Christmas pudding
If you find yourself with leftovers, store well wrapped in a cool place for up to 1 week or refrigerated for a good few months.
If you’ve made this British Christmas Pudding with Brandy Sauce leave a comment, or question below.