Now Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding
Many of us grew up memorizing Christmas carols without giving much thought to what the lyrics meant. As I contemplated a seasonal recipe for this month’s newsletter, the familiar verse from the carol, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” rang in my ears and I began to wonder, “Just what is figgy pudding?”
I contacted an English friend of mine who said, without hesitation, “It’s the same as Christmas pudding,” the time-honored traditional dessert that is a Christmas day staple of many British tables, as well as my own growing up. Mother always ordered hers well in advance of Christmas. It arrived in a tin, which was opened and set out to steam during dinner. My job as my mother’s apprentice was to mix together butter and sugar to form a hard sauce, topped with a sprig of holly and passed around the table with the fragrant mounded dessert.
Hmmmm. I asked myself if Christmas pudding, plum pudding, and figgy pudding were all the same thing. Naturally, I turned to Google to find out.
In a sense, they are. This traditional English dessert dates back to a savory dish called “frumenty.” In medieval England, meats, grains, and vegetables were combined with wine to produce something more akin to a soup or porridge. Fruits and spices, added to the mix and stuffed into animal stomachs, acted as preservatives over the long winter months. The dish evolved across centuries into the Victorian cake-like sweet and boozy dessert that bears the name Christmas Pudding or Plum Pudding today. Suet, brown sugar, dried fruit, candied peel, eggs, breadcrumbs, and copious amounts of alcohol are twice boiled and steamed in a large bowl, before being ignited with brandy to the great delight of guests gathered around the holiday table.
Beginning in the 19th century, households across England traditionally made figgy pudding on the Sunday before Advent, commonly known as “Stir-Up Sunday.” Some accounts suggest that every family member made a wish while taking a turn whisking the ingredients together.
The web contains quite a variety of recipes for figgy pudding. I tried out several of the ones that did not require a month-long waiting period, including one made with a mix for carrot cake. The recipe I am including here bears no resemblance to the dense fruit dessert delivered in a red and black plaid box to my childhood door every Christmas. Nevertheless, it is delicious and easy to make. I have printed it exactly as it is on the website, but I cut the sugar to 1/2 cup and added some cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice to mine. I think it would be more authentic without the chocolate, but I left it in. The resulting taste was a little like chocolate chip muffins! Be forewarned that this recipe can easily fill 12 ramekins, not 4 as the contributor suggests. Loaded with butter and sugar, this is no dessert for the calorie conscious. While the caramel sauce is yummy, I found it a bit sweet and unnecessary, especially if topped with cream. Enjoy!
Warm Sticky Figgy Pudding
1 1/2 cups chopped dried pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
2 cups water
1-teaspoon baking soda
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces or 7 tablespoons) butter, softened
1-cup superfine sugar
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
75 grams (2 1/2-ounces) dark chocolate, grated
Butter, for coating ramekins
Ice cream or whipped cream, for garnish
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups heavy cream
200 grams (7-ounces or 14 tablespoons) butter
Fresh figs, quartered, for garnish
Vanilla ice cream, optional
Whipped heavy cream, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Add the dates, dried figs and water to a medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then add to a blender and puree.
Using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and beat well. Fold in the flour, the pureed date mixture and the chocolate.
Put the mixture into 4 buttered, 1-cup individual ramekins, filling halfway or slightly under. Put in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Prepare the sauce by stirring the sugar and cream in a medium saucepan over low heat. Simmer until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the butter and stir until incorporated.
Remove the ramekins from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. May be served in the ramekin or unmolded onto a small serving plate. With paring knife cut a cross in the top of the puddings for the sauce.
Pour the sauce into the cross in the center of each pudding, then pour more sauce over the puddings and allow it to soak in slightly. Top with fresh figs and vanilla ice cream or heavily whipped cream. Serve warm.
Recipe courtesy of Jade Thompson Warm sticky figgy pudding recipe