A proper English yuletide dessert
London Lennie's Christmas pudding
By LUCY COHEN BLATTER
First, lets clear up a common misconception: English puddings bear no resemblance to the creamy, custard-like, lunchbox staples popular in this country.
In the U.K., puddings are more cake-like, and are often steamed or boiled rather than baked, making them more moist than most cakes.
A lot of people will order our Christmas pudding and expect to get something with a rice pudding consistency. We always educate our staff to explain it, said Eben Leonard, chef at The Libertine. His English-style restaurant serves sticky date pudding all year long and Christmas pudding during the holidays.The basics
Christmas pudding is a dessert steeped in tradition and alcohol. The cake, which is very dense and sweet, features candied fruits, almonds and citrus peel, and is soaked in brandy.
Traditionally, it features suet (a mutton or beef fat), which adds a moisture and dark richness not found in the American-style fruitcake.
Today, many chefs substitute suet with vegetable shortening. Others, like Jeff Baruch of London Lennies in Rego Park, Queens, choose to go the more traditional route with suet.
Its sort of cool, because its so different, Baruch said.
The pudding traditionally contains 13 ingredients, representing Jesus and the 12 apostles.
It is also often covered with holly to represent Jesus crown of thorns.
Finally, the brandy-soaked dessert is set aflame to represent Jesus passion.
Christmas pudding is certainly not a last-minute dessert. I know quite a few people who begin preparing the next years pudding the year before. Its something they nurture all year, said Josh Emett, chef de cuisine of Gordon Ramsay at The London.
After the dough is prepared, it is left to rest for up to a day and steamed for up to eight hours to ensure its moist taste.
It can sit in the fridge for up to a year, where its constantly doused with brandy or, in some cases, stout.
At Gordon Ramsay at the London, Christmas pudding is a must. We cant not serve Christmas pudding on the holiday. I dont think people like it every day, but on Christmas, definitely, Emett said.
Personally, I absolutely hate Christmas pudding, said Danny Boome, the British-born host of Food Networks Rescue Chef. It always reminds me of burnt fruit. I like fruitcake better because its sweeter.
As a traditional English alternative to Christmas pudding, Boome recommends spotted dick, a sponge cake with raisins, served with custard on top.
For an entirely different dessert, he suggests a mince pie shortcrust pastry filled with marinated spiced raisins, oranges and plums that are often dried out and marinated throughout the year. The longer it takes, the better it tastes, Boome said.
Youve got to hand it to the British they know how to plan in advance.
Classic Christmas Pudding
3/4 c. currants
1 c. seedless raisins
1 c. white raisins
1/2 c. candied mixed fruit peel
1/2 c. candied cherries, chopped
1/2 c. blanched slivered almonds
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 med. chopped apple
1 sm. carrot, scraped and chopped
1 1/2 tbsp. orange peel
1 tsp. lemon peel
1/4 lb. chopped beef suet
1 c. flour
2 c. fresh, soft white bread crumbs, shredded with a fork
1/2 c. brandy
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
1/4 c. lemon juice
Combine the currants, raisins, candied fruit peel, almonds, apple, carrot, orange and lemon peel and beef suet, tossing them about with a spoon or your hands until well mixed. Stir in flour, bread crumbs, brown sugar and spices.
In another bowl beat eggs until frothy. Stir in brandy, orange and lemon juice and pour this mixture over fruit mixture. Knead vigorously with both hands, then beat with wooden spoon until all ingredients are blended.
Drape a dampened kitchen towel over the bowl and refrigerate for at least 12 hours. Spoon mixture into 2-quart pudding mold and cover with tight cover or a strip of buttered foil.
Place mold in a large pot and pour in enough boiling water to come about 3/4 of the way up side of mold. Bring water to boil; cover pot tightly and reduce heat to its lowest point. Steam pudding for 8 hours. As water boils away, replenish it.
Remove pudding from pot and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate pudding for at least 3 weeks before serving. Plum pudding may be kept up to a year in the refrigerator or other cool place. Unmold and serve warm with hot butter sauce.
Courtesy of Eben Leonard at The Libertine
Danny Boomes Traditional English Mince Pies
For the filling:
1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup glace cherries
4 cooking apples, cored and chopped
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1 cup muscovado sugar
1/3 pound finely chopped beef suet
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups brandy, plus more for soaking
For the pastry:
15 ounces all-purpose flour
5 ounces confectioners sugar
12 ounces cold butter, cut into pieces
Juice and zest of 1 orange
Milk, for glazing
To make the filling: In a food processor add all of the ingredients. Place the lid on firmly and pulse the mixture to a finely chopped consistency.
Spoon mixture into a bowl, add a little more brandy, cover with plastic wrap, and place into the refrigerator over night.
To make the pastry: Into a clean mixing bowl sift the flour and confectioners sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.