Lighter Christmas Pudding
All the delicate flavours of panettone, in a steamed sponge pudding.
I know that Christmas is a good excuse for gluttony (and I always seize such opportunities with both hands), but having a traditional, dark Christmas pudding after a day of feasting is sometimes a bit too much. It is a spectacular pudding – especially booze-soaked, lit and brought to the table in a merry inferno – but I prefer something lighter to top off the Christmas meal.
This pudding strikes a fine balance between the sort of stodginess we’ve come to expect in a Christmas pudding and the lightness required if we’re actually going to be able to stomach the thing. Because it’s suet-free, it’s far spongier than the old-fashioned types. It’s not nearly as alcoholic either: just a splash of sweet white wine to soak the fruits (save the brandy for the post-dinner drinking).
This won’t keep for nearly as long as a traditional pudding, but it will cook far more quickly, so there’s no need to lose an entire day to its preparation. Just soak the fruit on Christmas Eve, make the batter in a jiffy in the morning and leave to quietly steam for two hours on the hob while dinner’s in the oven.
- zest of 2 lemons
- 100ml sweet white wine, such as Muscat
- 40g raisins
- 40g dried cranberries or cherries
- 40g dried apricots, coarsely chopped
- 40g prunes, coarsely chopped
- 40g stem ginger, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp syrup from the stem ginger
- 40g candied peel
- 125g unsalted butter, softened
- 50g soft light brown sugar
- 75g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsp vanilla extract
- 135g plain flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
1. The day before you make the pudding, mix the lemon zest, wine and dried fruit in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to soak overnight, at room temperature.
2. The following day, prepare the steamer, referring to the instructions on page 221. Prepare the pudding basin by lightly buttering all over and placing a circle of baking parchment in the base, to help with unmoulding later. Have a couple of large pieces of baking parchment and some string to hand, ready to cover the pudding.
3. Add the stem ginger, syrup and candied peel to the soaked fruit mixture. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy, then add the eggs and vanilla extract. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a separate bowl, then stir this into the butter mixture. Now add all of the fruit and ginger along with their soaking liquid. Stir lightly to combine.
4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pudding basin. Lay one sheet of the baking parchment over the top of the basin, fold a wide pleat into it (to allow the pudding to expand as it cooks) then use a length of string tied around it to secure. Repeat with the second sheet of baking parchment. The cover should be secure but loose enough that it won’t constrict the rising pudding.
5. Bring the water in the steamer to the boil, put the pudding in and the lid on, and steam for around 2 hours, or until well risen, firm and a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. It’s important that you keep an eye in the water levels during this time, topping up regularly so that the pan doesn’t boil dry.
6. When it’s ready, carefully unmould the steamed pudding, loosen around the edges and invert onto a large plate. Serve with ice cream (homemade, spiked with a dash of sweet white wine, is particularly good) to finish the feast.