So what exactly IS figgy pudding?
Here's the scoop on Figgy Pudding...
Allright… yippee-freakin-yay… It’s that time of the year when all my favorite radio stations break out the Christmas music and play it non-stop. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all for Christmas music. I just hate it when I’m subjected to it when I should be listening to something actually worth listening to. I guess I might just have to break down and get that ipod docking station before next Christmas…
One song that seems to be played to death is ‘We wish you a merry Christmas.’ It’s a fine song but it gets old fast. However, there is one line that always makes me scratch my neanderthal-ish head. “Bring us some figgy-pudding.” Never mind that they’re putting demands on their host… I mean refusing to leave until they get some?! What are they, Royalty?! And the REAL question, of course is
What the hell IS figgy pudding anyways?!
This was driving me nuts so I did what any good journalist would do and googled it. It turns out that figgy pudding is actually more of a steamed cake than a custard and takes more than three hours to cook. I guess those guests are planning to stay awhile…
Figgy pudding is an English dessert recipe that was developed in the fifteenth century and was a popular Christmas menu item. The name is misleading though as figgy pudding may or may NOT contain figs and was often times made with carrots instead. Several variations of the ancient recipe exist but a common element is the steaming method used to cook it. Typically, the batter would be put into a cast-iron kettle that was then placed inside a bigger kettle with a cushion of water between the two (think bain-marie). Then, both kettles were covered tightly with a cloth soaked in creme and placed over a low fire to cook. The cloth would have to be splashed with creme at regular intervals to avoid scorching and the fire would have to be just hot enough to not burn the bottom of the mixture. After three hours or so the kettle would be removed and allowed to cool and would usually be served in a bowl and sprinkled with cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Almost like a medieval bread pudding…
On my quest of figgy pudding enlightenment, I ran across tons of recipes that tried to stay true to the original cooking technique but seeing that I have niether a pot-au-fue kettle or a fire-pit in my kitchen, I decided to tweak the recipe a bit and make it more approachable for today’s home cook. I DID stay true to the ingredients (though suet is not the easiest thing to find). So now that the mystery of figgy pudding is solved, here’s an easy adaptation for you to try this Christmas. Cooking time is still a bit long so you may want to make it a day in advance but mine turned out pretty tasty actually…
Christmas Figgy Pudding
- ½ cup salted butter or suet (kidney fat)
- 1 cup molasses
- 6 whole eggs
- 2 cups finely minced sugar figs
- 1 cup crème fraiche or buttermilk
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup pureed carrots
- 3 cups sifted flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and crème fraiche (or buttermilk) together until fully incorporated. Beat in the butter (or suet), carrot puree, walnuts, figs, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, sift the flour and baking soda together. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Fold in the molasses taking care not to over-mix (you want the molasses to be “marbled” through the batter). Spoon the mixture into a greased and floured 7” x 11” glass baking dish. Place the dish into a 9” x 13” glass baking dish and fill the space between the two pans almost to the top with cold water. Tightly wrap the entire set-up with tented heavy-duty foil and cook on the top rack of a 225 degree oven for about 1 ½ hour. Allow to cool and serve.