Traditional Christmas desserts live on. Variations of the old-fashioned Christmas pudding are in plentiful supply this year.
These rich fruity delights really appeal only to adults. I suspect it's the generous slurp of booze added when reheating that makes them appealing.
Children usually prefer year-round special occasion treats such as pavlova, trifle and tiramisu, all of which can be made Christmassy with the addition of fresh summer fruits.
Traditionally, Christmas puddings were prepared at the start of Advent - the Sunday five weeks before December 25.
They only became associated with Christmas in the 17th century, when they were known as plum puddings due to the inclusion of prunes (dried plums). They also contained suet (usually beef fat) but because it is difficult to find in supermarkets these days butter has become the substitute.
Prunes provide a rich flavour and good colour in puddings. I often use prunes in place of sultanas and chop them into quarters. The flavour of Christmas puddings is enhanced if you chop your own fruit such as prunes, apricots and figs and top up the weight required with currants and mixed peel.
If you wish to make a quick Christmas dessert, try stacking small Christmas pies on a flat plate. They can be kept in place with some thick whipped cream. Insert raspberries or strawberries in between the pies. Dust with icing sugar and serve with brandy custard - a super summer festive stack.
For the brandy custard - if you do not have time to make it from scratch - thin two cups of store-bought custard with a little cream, then stir in about three tablespoons of brandy and a dash of vanilla paste.
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This yummy dessert is a mixture of summer pudding, trifle and tiramisu.
Use homemade or bought custard. I made my own using EasiYo custard mix which contains a culture. It's not too sweet.
Use crisp lady fingers. Common sponge cake is too soft.
3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup each fresh or frozen raspberries, blackberries
1 cup icing sugar
3 Tbsp each water, lime juice
200g lady fingers
cup sherry or your favourite liqueur (I used Cointreau)
1 cups custard
4 Tbsp lime curd
1 lime (finely grate rind)
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
Place the berries in a saucepan with the icing sugar and water. Slowly bring to the boil, stirring gently once or twice. Simmer until the berries are soft but still holding their shape. Transfer to a bowl. Add the lime juice and cool. This can be prepared a day ahead.
Brush the lady fingers generously with the liqueur. Line the base of a round or oblong glass bowl with the lady fingers. Make a double layer, if possible. Sprinkle with any remaining liqueur.
Spread with the custard. Top with the berries and 4-6 Tbsp of the juice.
Gently whisk the mascarpone and cream. Fold in the lime curd and rind. Spread over the top.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. Sprinkle with cocoa just before serving. Serves 8.
3 egg whites
1 cup demerara sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 Tbsp dark cocoa powder
tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp white vinegar
50g dark chocolate, melted
2 Tbsp grated or curled dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Whip the egg whites and salt until frothy. Gradually whisk in the sugar, then add the sifted cornflour and cocoa.
Fold in the vanilla and vinegar.
Pile on to the baking paper in an 18cm diameter round. Bake for about 1 hour, until crisp on the outside.
Turn the oven off and leave the pavlova to cool. Remove to a serving plate.
Whip the cream and add the melted chocolate. Pile on to the pavlova. Top with the grated or curled chocolate.
Excellent served with cherries. Serves 6-8.
TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS PUDDING
200g each pitted prunes, dried apricots, cut into quarters
1 cup each dried currants, mixed peel, glace cherries
1 cup water
cup each white sugar, brown sugar (lightly packed)
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
1 tsp baking soda
2 medium eggs
cup sherry or brandy
1 cup each plain flour, self-raising flour
2 tsp ground mixed spice
Place the fruit in a saucepan with the water, sugars and butter. Stir over low heat until the butter has melted. Simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange rind and baking soda. Stand until cold.
Lightly beat the eggs and sherry or brandy. Stir into the cold fruit mixture. Stir in the sifted flours and mixed spice.
Spoon into a greased, 2-litre pudding basin or bowl. Cover tightly with foil. Steam over simmering water for 3 hours, replenishing the water from time to time. This pudding can be prepared weeks ahead and stored in the refrigerator.
Reheat over boiling water for about 45 minutes or in the microwave on medium (50 per cent) power for about 5 minutes.
Add a good dash of sherry or brandy before reheating.
Serve with brandy sauce, custard, whipped cream or icecream. Serves 8.
ITALIAN-STYLE CHRISTMAS PUD
A delicious pudding prepared using panettone, an Italian-style light-textured bread containing dried fruits.
cup icing sugar
100g each dark chocolate, mixed dried fruit
4 Tbsp grated orange rind
1 loaf panettone bread
cup orange-flavoured liqueur
Line an 8-cup metal pudding basin with plastic wrap, leaving enough to wrap over the top of the pudding.
Cook the hazelnuts in a heavy-based frying pan for 5 minutes over a medium heat, until lightly browned. Place in a large sieve and shake to remove the skins. Coarsely chop.
Beat the ricotta, mascarpone and icing sugar, until smooth.
Chop the chocolate into small-medium pieces.
Add chocolate to the ricotta mixture with the hazelnuts, chocolate, dried fruit and orange rind.
Using a sharp knife, cut the panettone lengthways into six 1.5cm thick slices.
Remove the crusts.
Arrange 4 of the slices, overlapping slightly, around the sides and base of the pudding basin. Brush with 2 Tbsp of the liqueur.
Spoon the ricotta mixture into the panettone, pressing in firmly.
Brush both sides of the remaining panettone with the remaining liqueur and place firmly on top of the pudding. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to chill.
The pudding can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for up to three months.
Excellent served with summer fruit and whipped cream.
Copyright Jan Bilton
- The Marlborough Express