While kicking around holiday ideas with the Sharp Knife & Salt braintrust, I volunteered to make figgy pudding. Like sugar plums, gruel, mincemeat and Turkish delight, figgy pudding is a dish we are first introduced to through English literature and song. But how many of us have actually tasted it?
I decided to use our friend Dorie Greenspan’s recipe featured on NPR last year. Even with all of Dorie’s kind assurances in the interview that this was easy, it was still intimidating to try steam cooking and flambéing for the first time in the same recipe. So I enlisted the help of several curious co-workers and hoped that the wisdom of the crowd would raise our collective cooking expertise. It kind of did, and here is what we learned!
Sweet and Steamy Christmas Pudding by Dorie Greenspan (Try the recipe!)
- “Festive! Like a grown-up, gussied-up coffee cake or toned-down fruit cake.”
- “Dried oatmeal on top but after you invert it, a normal baked cake.”
- “Amazing and smells so yummy!
- “Like a lump of muffin.”
- “Quite good and tasty in appearance. Appears to be a success.”
- “Beautiful. A little darker than I thought it would be. Looks like fruit cake.”
- “Very pretty from the Bundt pan. Sliced it was crumbly and rustic. The big chunks of fruit looked great!” [Editor’s note: we used the Jubilee Bundt Pan.]
- “The flavor is incredible – lots of great holiday spices. It’s a bit dry though…” [Editor’s note: we did not do a second flambé because we were unsure of the impact of the extra cognac we used to try to flambé the first time.]
- “Like Christmas.”
- “Not too sweet, a little too muffin-like in terms of texture and outside of the fruit it was a little bland.”
- “I liked it. Not overly sweet. Went well with tea.”
- “Fairly bland (not too sweet) but really great warm.”
- “Like a sweet muffin or bread with a savory quality. the fruit is delicious! It’s warm and plump and has a hint of cognac.”
- “Amazing! Very much like the figgy pudding my English Grandma used to make at Christmas.”
- “Kind of a letdown after hearing the song for years…probably inflated expectations. The hot/cold experience with the ice cream was nice.”
- “It to be much more moist. This seems flaky and muffin-esque. I was expecting something with a more uncooked consistency. Also, flames.”
- “Less cake-y, more moist and rich, probably due to the word ‘pudding.’ More of a fig-flavored experience.”
- “More moisture, more sweetness.”
- “Very moist almost like bread pudding.”
- “Initially, without seeing the recipe, for it to be more of a pudding and not a cake. I expected the abundance of fruit. I expected more of a fig flavor.”
- “Sweeter, which I don’t really like so I’m glad it was more earthy/fruit-based/spiced. Also nuts, which I also do not like – so very glad no nuts.”
- “Something more gooey, slimy, less cake-like. I really expected pudding. Yes, I’m American.”
I did NOT expect…
- “it to be so cake-like. Much better than I would have guessed.”
- “To want another piece!”
- “More wholesome than I thought. Not too sweet. Fruit is the star. Great texture, like bran muffins.”
- “it to be so dried out.”
- “Fruits other than figs!”
- “it to cook in 1 hour.”
- “Such little flavor- it wasn’t bad, just kind of bland.”
- “I didn’t expect to finish my piece but I did.”
Overall Score: B-
The traditional Christmas pudding that Mrs. Cratchit proudly serves at her humble table in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol can be made up to a year in advance and usually contains suet. Since we are neither Victorians nor birds, I am glad we chose a modernized recipe to at least get a sense of the flavors as well as trying to steam cook like in the olden days when home ovens were a rarity and usually unreliable. However, the best part of this recipe is that it pulls ingredients as well as friends together while laughing all the way and that’s why this is such a great holiday dish!
Based on our test, would you try to make figgy pudding this year? What other mythical recipes are you curious about?