Friday 23 November 2012

Stir Up, Stir Up! Gluten Free Christmas Pudding!

This Sunday is officially Stir Up Sunday. It is the last Sunday before advent starts in December and is the day where everyone should stir up and steam their Christmas Puddings!

I have made Christmas puddings twice before, once pre coeliac diagnosis and once last year when I made it for the rest of the family, but couldn’t eat it myself. This year, as I’d been tasked with making it again, I decided it was going to be a gluten free Christmas Pud. Since moving out of my parents home a few months ago, my kitchen is a dedicated gluten free zone. No wheat or gluten is allowed through my front door!
I was having a chat about Christmas Puddings with my boss at work, who is also coeliac. We were discussing the recipes we use, and both of us were saying we had the best recipe. The next thing I knew an email had gone round the office saying that she and I were going to have a Christmas Pudding competition, and everyone is invited along to taste and vote for a winner! Yikes! No pressure then! (I somehow forgot to mention I’d never made a GF version of the pud before – but I’m never one to pass up a cooking challenge!)

Christmas Pudding is not too dissimilar to Christmas Cake. Your soak your fruits in alcohol before using them, like a Christmas cake, but you then mix these into a spiced breadcrumb and suet batter. This year I made my own breadcrumbs from some gluten free bread and used frozen grated butter in place of the suet (which is coated in wheat flour). This fruity, spicy mixture is placed into a pudding basin and part boiled, part steamed for several hours in a pan of simmering water. This produces a very moist and soft pudding, which has all the flavours of Christmas cake only in a squishier, softer form. The pudding mix doesn’t look all that appetising before it’s steamed, but it transforms into a lovely dark and sticky pudding after its steaming session, not to mention filling the house with a fabulous rich and spicy Christmas scent. It’s currently wrapped up tight and hidden away in a cupboard until its big reveal on Christmas Day.

Like Christmas Cake, the pudding is kept for several weeks to allow the flavour to mature and develop. Then on Christmas day the pudding is heated, doused in Brandy and set alight! The lights are quickly turned down and people ‘ohhh’ and ‘arrrrh’ as wispy blue flames dance around the pudding creating a spectacular end to the Christmas meal. There can’t be many foods that people look forward to intentionally setting on fire! The only other one I can think of is Baked Alaska and that’s more of a gentle torching rather than dousing it in a flammable liquid and setting light to it! However, the actually flames last mere seconds, so no harm comes to the pudding itself, its too moist to get scorched or burnt.

The pudding requires 5 hours of boiling/steaming, but don’t let that put you off. As long as you check the water level a couple of times during cooking, it can be left to its own devises. The actual making of the pudding is very quick and easy and the aroma of Christmas that fills your house as it happily steams away is sensational. My kitchen smelt all festive for 3 whole days. I’m really looking forward to Christmas now!

Gluten Free Christmas Pudding
230g raisins
125g sultanas
50g glace cherries (check they are gf)
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
100ml Brandy (I used 60ml Brandy & 40ml Amaretto)
20g chopped pecans
50g grated frozen butter
30g gluten free brown breadcrumbs
50g gluten free plain flour
90g dark soft brown sugar
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground star anise (or clove)
½ tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten

The day before (or up to 3 days before), chop the cherries in half and place into a bowl along with the rest of the dried fruits. Grate the orange and lemon zest over the top and pour in the Brandy. Give everything a good stir, cover the bowl with clingfilm and set aside for 24 hours (or up to 3 days) to allow the fruits to plump up and absorb some of the Brandy.
The next day, place all the remaining ingredients into a large bowl. Add the soaked fruits, scraping in any leftover juices. Mix together lightly with a wooden spoon until everything is evenly combined.
Place a small disc of parchment paper in the base of a 1½ pint pudding basin. Fill the basin with the pudding mix, pressing down lightly. Place another disc of parchment on top and cover the top of the basin with a sheet of foil. Fold a little crease into the middle of the foil to allow the pudding to rise during steaming.
Tie a long strip of string around the top rim of the pudding and then secure it over the top of the basin from one side to the other to form a string handle. (This will help you retrieve the pudding from the pan later without burning yourself).
Lay sheets of newspaper in the base of a large saucepan. (This protects the base of the pudding from the direct heat from the stove and stops it rattling around inside your pan.) Place the pudding on the papers before filling the pan with boiling water from the kettle, until it reaches halfway up the side of the pudding basin.
Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to the merest of simmers, cover with the lid and leave to simmer gently for 5 hours. It should be barely bubbling.
Every 2 hours lift the lid of the pan to check the water level. Add more boiling water if it’s looking low.
Once the 5 hours is up, lift the pudding out of the pan with the help of the string handle. Place on a cooling rack, remove the foil and leave until cool. Leave it in the basin and with the parchment disc still on top. Once cooled, wrap the whole pudding, basin and all, tightly in clingfilm and store in a cool dark place until required, the longer the better.
On Christmas Day, steam the pudding again for 2 hours to heat through thoroughly. Turn out onto a serving plate that has a rim. Carefully warm a ladleful of Brandy, then set light to it with a match or lighter and quickly pour it over the pudding to flambé. Serve with Brandy butter or custard once the flames have extinguished.
Makes 1 pudding, to serve 6 – 8 people


Chele said...

I am loving all the gluten free Christmas Baking you are helping me with Katie ;0)
Thanks for sharing.

The Caked Crusader said...

My Christmas cake is in the oven as I type - I think it's the first time I've ever actually made it on stir up sunday!