In the Kitchen with Sharon

Inquiring minds want to know…what is figgy pudding??? I don’t know about you, but I have always wanted to know what figgy pudding is. As I was talking with Tim Colliver in our editorial department, he said he knew what figgy pudding was, and that he would make some. Yay, Tim! Thank you, Tim, for sharing this great recipe with us. HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone!

From the album “John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together”

(Scooter) “Now bring us some figgy pudding, now bring us…”

(Miss Piggy) “Piggy pudding?!”

(Scooter) “No, figgy pudding! It’s made with figs.”

(Miss Piggy) “Oh! Sorry…”

(Scooter) “…and bacon”

(Miss Piggy) “WHAT?!”

I wish I could say this is an old family recipe from the kitchen of Rene Colliver, but although Mom always talked about making an authentic figgy pudding in the tradition of Charles Dickens, she never did. The closest she ever got were the annual date nut bars she made for Christmas, but that’s a creation for another day.

One of my favorite Christmas stories is Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and I’ve always wanted (threatened?) to make figgy pudding for the holidays. So after researching and writing the top 20 favorite re-tellings of the Charles Dickens novella that was in the Christmas Eve edition of The Times-Gazette, I decided to give this recipe a whirl!

First of all, we’re not making pudding as those of us here in the States would think of it. Figgy pudding, or for that matter, plum pudding, is actually a heavy cake made with fruits, nuts and spices, and either brandy or spiced rum for that element of good cheer.

You’ll need:

• 1 cup chopped dried figs

• 1 cup pitted and chopped dried dates

• 1 cup raisins

• 1 ½ cup chopped walnuts

• 2 cups water

• ½ cup (4 fluid oz.) brandy or rum (A fellow baker advised me to use rum in this recipe, saying that brandy may make it too sweet.)

• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

• 1 teaspoon baking soda

• ½ teaspoon salt

• ½ cup (one stick) butter

• 1 cup powdered sugar

• 2 eggs

• 1 cup bread crumbs

• ½ teaspoon nutmeg

• ½ teaspoon grated orange zest

• 2 teaspoons cinnamon

• 4 oz. grated dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix flour and baking soda in separate bowl and set aside. Grease and flour a large diameter fluted baking bowl or a Bundt pan. Mix dates, figs and raisins in bowl. Heat water in a saucepan until it starts to boil, and add the dates, figs and raisins. Let cook for about 10 minutes, then set aside to cool. Transfer the dates, figs and raisins to a blender; add the rum; and make a puree. Take another bowl, and beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and beat again until fluffy and light. Fold in the flour, bread crumbs, spices, zest, pureed dates/figs/raisins, grated chocolate and chopped walnuts. Pour into the baking bowl or Bundt pan and place in oven. Bake for about one hour. It will be done when you can insert a knife, and it comes out clean.

For individual servings, as shown in our picture, this recipe will fill eight 9-oz. ramekin dishes if you prefer to bake up individual servings rather than a big fluted baking dish or Bundt pan.

After it’s cooled, invert the baking bowl onto a serving plate, pop out the figgy pudding and serve with cream, ice cream or brandy/rum sauce. Since we’re trying to keep the old world tradition alive, chaps, here’s how to make rum sauce fit for Queen Victoria herself:

• 1 cup powdered sugar

• 2 tablespoons butter, softened

• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or imitation vanilla (using pure vanilla, which if made correctly is mostly vodka and a sliced vanilla bean, will add a bit more “burn” to your sauce)

• 2 tablespoons brandy, rum, or whiskey (for an alcohol free sauce, use imitation rum extract)

• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

• Allspice to taste

Beat the softened butter. Add the powdered sugar and mix while scraping the sides of the bowl so the sugar and butter mix together evenly. Add the vanilla extract, brandy-rum-or whiskey and spices, and mix, scraping the sides again to combine. Spoon the sauce into a bowl and refrigerate, covered in plastic wrap, until ready to serve.

Figgy pudding will remind you more of a rich pound cake that has a fruity taste with just a hint of chocolate. This may end up a family tradition, so give it a try and serve up a slice of figgy pudding, drizzle some rum sauce over the top and sit back with a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea or a stout British coffee such as Union or Glen Lyon coffee roasters, and enjoy a nod to old Charles Dickens this holiday season.

Sharon Hughes is the advertising manager at The Times-Gazette. She is also a mother, grandmother and chef.

An old-world holiday favorite, Christmas figgy pudding with rum sauce. old-world holiday favorite, Christmas figgy pudding with rum sauce. Photo courtesy Samantha Colliver

Sharon Hughes Staff Columnist Hughes Staff Columnist Photo courtesy Samantha Colliver