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Who knows how National Plum Pudding Day landed in February but in my humble opinion there is no good reason why it shouldn’t be a year-round treat. Sure, plum pudding is a quintessential symbol of Christmas decadence, but the ingredients are typical pantry items and the preparation is extraordinarily simple. I guess the biggest reason that plum pudding never appears outside the holidays is that it really should ripen for a few weeks to be enjoyed at its best. I understand that the “plan-ahead” aspect of plum pudding will permanently relegate it to Christmas, that one time of year when we can justify cooking now for future enjoyment. That said, I knew there was a Plum Pudding Blog on the horizon and I made two.
If you read the Fruitcake post in December you already know that I am surrounded by raisin-haters. I hadn’t bothered to make my own plum pudding for the same reason I hadn’t made fruitcake for so many years… because it always comes down to my father-in-law and me to eat it all. However, I was inspired this year and made both.
My first big challenge was to find an appropriate vessel in which to steam the pudding. I was shocked to realize that pudding basins are a little hard to find these days. I eventually found one but it was huge! I ended up using a pair of ceramic loaf pans that I use for terrines. They were the perfect size, if not the traditional shape.
The second challenge was to find a recipe. The options seemed endless… some with currants, some with dates, others with prunes, some with treacle, others with brown sugar, some with citron, others with candied orange and ginger… you get the idea. I knew what I wanted my pudding to taste like and the one that made the most sense to me was from the 1995 Martha Stewart Cookbook: Collected Recipes for Everyday (pg 418). Her recipe has both dark raisins and currants and is heavy on the orange notes, using both orange peel and candied kumquats. The recipe makes a 2-quart pudding, enough for 15 servings. I cut the recipe in half and cooked them in two half-quart pans. It was still too much for my father-in-law and me to polish off in one sitting but I was able to lick the bowl clean by New Years.
The third challenge was to leave the second pudding alone until now. It’s been pure torture to see it in the back of the fridge all this time. At last the day has arrived to peel open my last taste of Christmas until next winter.
Traditionally, plum pudding is set ablaze with a good dousing of rum or brandy and served with hard sauce. I am usually all over food with booze but I find that the hard sauce overpowers the pudding. I prefer mine with a little brandy spiked crème anglaise. It’s pretty close to the original but more subtle… like the difference between a framing hammer and a sledge hammer.
So here it is… a cold, rainy, mid-February night in Vancouver. After enduring a few hours in the cold to watch the Olympic torch relay come into Yaletown I poured a snifter of my best Armagnac and drizzled crème anglaise over a slice of steaming pudding. It’s so rich, so satisfying and so delicious….
All right, all right… I’m lying. It was neither raining nor cold… more of a pleasant spring evening. But the plum pudding was brilliant and the Armagnac so perfectly soothing that I think I’ll have to celebrate Christmas again in July.
A bit of history, a recipe, a photo and a personal observation for you on National Candy Cane Day:
(1)History: If the internet can be trusted, candy canes were originally sticks without the bendy bits at the top, but were co-opted to be a Cristian symbol by making them look like a [Good] Shepard’s crook. If that doesn’t sit well with you, you can choose to think of them as pre-formed for easy tree decoration.
(2) Recipe: I learned tonight that you could make candy canes, if, you know, you were house bound and crazy or something. This is definitely one of those things where I would never spend the time to try to replicate. But I have a hard candy-making phobia, so it just might be my neurosis talking! 🙂 If you are jonesing for something pepperminty, I would instead suggest that you try this lovely recipe my pal Stephanie put me on to, for Peppermint Marshmallows. Aren’t they pretty?
Stephanie’s tips, if you attempt this recipie, are:
– Don’t beat the final mixture for as long as is written, as it gets too thick and you can’t properly marble the colouring (as is evidenced by my mushy pink tops and white bottoms).
– Work quickly once you pour into the pan, as the mixture sets fairly quickly and you can’t smooth it down fast enough.
– Use spray oil very sparingly – it leaves a yucky taste on the marshmallows. Go for something very light and pat it off the marshmallow block before you cut it.
(3) I did take some photos of candy canes at my house. Only one candy cane was eaten in the process, which I thought was an entirely acceptable casualty ratio:
(4) Random Personal Observation: I like to eat candy canes by peeling back the plastic wrap a few inches, then sucking on them until I’ve made a very sharp point. That’s right- candy cane as weapon.
As I write this, there is 27 min left of Christmas Day. Hope yours was jolly, yummy, and bright, and that you find yourself with a little room left in your tummy on boxing day to try a candy cane. They will bring you back to your childhood. Try it, you’ll see! 🙂
ps- this has nothing to do with candy canes, but while taking photos of them I took this photo of my mom’s center-piece, which I love, so I’m posting it too!
It’s Christmas Eve and I just finished making Dea and J’s fabulous knock your socks off egg nog recipe. It’s chilling on the front porch. Yes, it IS that cold in Victoria – no Saskatchewan, but still cold enough to chill some ‘Nog.
Almost didn’t get the pie made today. A bit epic really. My usual pastry genius was failing me and I actually threw out two, count ’em, TWO batches of pastry before I was able to produce something that I considered satisfactory.
My original plan was to make true “from scratch” pumpkin pie. Unfortunately, it has been a really crazy busy month at work (so busy, in fact, that I did my Christmas shopping mostly vicariously through my husband and then a little scramble last night after work) and the first opportunity I got to go shopping for sugar pumpkins was last Sunday. That’s when I got the bad news that they were all sold out – everywhere. So I didn’t do anything special this time. I just made my usual pumpkin pie recipe – which is the one I posted on National Pumpkin Day. It’s from the Silver Palate Cookbook and I really believe that it is the BEST pumpkin pie recipe ever.
I doubled the recipe to fill my 10″ deep dish pie plate and cooked it for 8 minutes at 450 and then for almost 1 1/2 hours at 325. Haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve made this one so many times, I don’t need to try it to know that it’s amazing 🙂