By Angela Denstad Stigeler
The sounds of the season are all around—from caroling to school concerts to choral ensembles. I’ve been delighted with the beautiful voices, all calling out a wish for a merry Christmas and happy holiday season. As my way of saying thanks, I’d like to regale all those musical revelers with just the right treat: a warm figgy pudding.
My rather modern twist on the old English classic is warmly spiced, replete with wintery dried fruits and accented with dark chocolate and orange peel. As if that weren’t enough, this cake-like pudding gets drenched with a cream sauce redolent of real vanilla bean. Served warm, it’s a wonderful holiday indulgence. Once you try it, you’ll see why singers so often request it. But beware—once your home is scented with warm figgy pudding, you might find some extra guests around declaring they won’t leave until they get some. These individual puddings are perfect take-home treats, as well. What a wonderful way to wish a merry Christmas to one and all!
Figgy Pudding with Vanilla Cream Sauce
2 cups chopped dried figs and dates (adjust ratio to your preference)
2 cups water
1 teaspoon baking soda
zest of one orange
½ cup butter, divided
1 cup sugar, preferably superfine
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour*
½ teaspoon cardamom or other spice
2 ½ ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
½ a vanilla bean
6 tablespoons butter
Fresh figs, quartered, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the dates, dried figs and water in 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 puree in a blender or food processor. Stir in the orange zest.
Use one tablespoon of the butter to coat the bottom and sides of 8 one-cup ramekins, a 12-cup muffin tin, or an 8-inch square pan. Cream together the remaining 7 tablespoons of the butter with the sugar. Add the eggs and beat well. Fold in the flour, spice, date mixture and the chocolate. Spread batter into prepared pans, smoothing the tops. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for individual servings; longer for a single pan.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by heating the sugar and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add seeds and pod to the cream, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 5 minutes. Off the heat, add the butter and stir until incorporated.
Unmolded the warm pudding and, with a paring knife, score a cross in the top of the puddings. Pour the sauce into the cross in the center of each pudding, allowing it to soak in slightly. Garnish as desired and serve warm.
*To substitute for self-rising flour, use 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour plus 1 tablespoon baking powder and a scant teaspoon of salt.