Shortcut to festive baking

By: Nicola Bolton

Hoorah! At last the festive season is upon us. My main goal for this Christmas, and those thereafter, is to master the art of the traditional Christmas pudding.

Every year for decades now my dear grandmother has had the mammoth task of preparing multiple puddings for the family. I did not quite realise the effort Gran went to until I had a hands-on lesson with her earlier this week.

Traditionally, a Christmas pudding is made then stored many months in advance. It is tied and cooked in cloth and previously, unbeknownst to me, it is also steamed twice – first when it is prepared, and then again before consumption on Christmas Day.

It is truly a long and drawn out process. Instead, I offer you the cheat’s recipe for Christmas pudding; prepared in half the time with half the effort.

Cheat’s Christmas Pudding

60g butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup milk
400g fruit mix
70g roughly chopped walnut halves
1/2tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp nutmeg
1tsp baking soda
1tsp baking powder
1 cup self raising flour

In a large saucepan on a medium-to-high heat, begin boiling butter, sugar, milk, fruit mix, walnuts, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir to combine ingredients as you boil. The mix does not need to boil for long. Remove your saucepan from the heat and promptly sieve in your baking soda, baking powder and self raising flour. Stir everything together thoroughly. You will notice the wet ingredients react with the dry, causing the mix to expand slightly.

Now comes the hardest part – the steaming. You need to grease a heat-proof bowl with a bit more butter. The butter ensures the pudding does not stick to the sides of the bowl whilst steaming. Pour your pudding mix into the bowl. This bowl then needs to fit in to a larger pot with a lid.

The larger pot must be half filled with water and put on the stove at a medium-to-high heat (with the lid on) so that the water boils and creates steam. Your pudding (inside its own bowl) will then sit in the water cooking in the steam created for three to four hours. It’s very important to note that you will need to refill the water regularly as it will evaporate. You will also need to make sure that the water does not bubble over in to the pudding bowl.

After steaming, I use a knife (down the side) and tea towel to remove the pudding bowl from within the large pot. Allow the pudding to cool, then cover and place in the fridge for up to a week before consumption. On Christmas Day, you will want to steam the pudding again for an hour or so. Keep it in the same bowl and follow the same process. To serve, cover the top of the pudding in more walnuts, strawberries or fresh cherries. Generously drizzle with fresh cream, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream when dishing up. Enjoy!

Nicola Bolton


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