If you're making a homemade Christmas pudding, these tips, tricks and recipes are sure to come in handy. We'll tell you how to get your pudding really flavoursome, the best ways of storing it and much more. Plus, we have luxury and alternative Christmas pudding recipes, expert tips from award winning baker Dan Lepard and the reasons behind all those Christmas pudding traditions. Start your Christmas baking here...
Christmas puddings are a must-have over the festive period and they're not as tricky as you might think.
The best thing about Christmas pudding is you can make it in advance - so there is less to do on the big day. November's a good time to start as you can store the pudding for weeks.
To make a Christmas pudding the only equipment you need is:
- A pudding basin (Most recipes are to fill a 2 pint pudding basin - which will serve 6-8 people.)
- An elastic band
- Foil and baking parchment.
Christmas pudding is traditionally made with 13 ingredients (to symbolise Jesus and the Apostles). The ingredients are:
- Demerara sugar
- Glace cherries
- Orange and lemon peel
- Mixed spices
Vegetarian: Traditional recipes use suet (which is beef or mutton fat) but if you wish to make a vegetarian pudding you can replace it with vegetarian suet or an assortment of other ingredients like in Roopa Gulati's Christmas pudding.
Alcohol-free: If you wish to make an alcohol-free cake you can substitute the cognac for a mixture of grape, orange and lime juice.
Top baker Dan Lepard says: Don't feel restricted to the traditional Christmas Pudding fruits, if you fancy experimenting with different flavours swap out for ones you prefer but keep the same overall weight of fruit to other ingredients.'
If you have the time, soak your fruits in the liquor overnight to absorb the flavour. Whisky, rum and cold tea work best. Some recipes have you include more ingredients at this point for extra absorption. Make sure the ingredients are covered in a cool, dry place.
Dan Lepard says: ‘If you want to avoid alcohol completely, use a light sugar syrup flavoured with orange zest.'
The traditional method of cooking a Christmas pudding is by steaming. To do this place your pudding bowl in a pan of water and steam for required
time (normally about 8 hours). Put an upside down saucer in the bottom
of the pan and sit the pudding on this. This way the pudding is kept away from the bottom of the pan and won't overheat. It's very important to make sure the water never runs dry so you will need to regularly top up the pan with fresh water.
Dan Lepard says: ‘To ensure the pudding is extra moist, remember it will continue cooking for 5-10 minutes after being removed from the steamer, so allow for this.'
Top Tip: Steaming is also the best way to reheat the pudding on the day of eating. Steam the pudding for 1-2 hours to reheat thoroughly.
Christmas puddings can be made weeks in advance, which is handy during the busy Christmas period. Store the pudding in a cool place away from the light.Keep the pudding topped up with a splash of liquor every week to keep it moist. If you want to freeze the pudding (check the recipe to see if you can), take it out of the bowl, wrap well in cling film, then in foil, seal, label and freeze. Use within 6 months.
Dan Lepard says: ‘Once the pudding has boiled, leave the string tied, keeping the covering intact - don't peek at all, and store in a cool and dark cupboard once cool. This will ensure the pudding stays mould and bacteria-free until Christmas.'
Top tip: An ideal place to store a Christmas pudding is under a bed in an unheated room.
Christmas pudding is traditionally served with a sprig of holly on top and with flaming brandy. Holly is very flammable so make sure you pour the brandy away from it, around the bottom of the pudding. Light the brandy at the table rather than carrying it in on fire. Traditionally Christmas pudding is served with either brandy butter, custard, sweet white sauce or whipped cream - it's really a personal preference.
Dan Lepard says: If you're not a fan of traditional recipes but would still like to bake something Christmassy this year, dress a cupcake stand up as a mini Christmas tree and adorn it with flavoured cupcakes - chestnut, chocolate or cranberry.'
Top tip: To ensure the brandy ignites, warm it slightly before pouring it over the cake.
The Christmas pudding recipe is hundreds of years old and over the years many traditions have been picked up.
Stir-up Sunday: A Christmas pudding is traditionally made on Stir-up Sunday which is the 'next before Advent.' This year it falls on the 24th November.
Mixing: When making the cake it is traditional for every member of the family, especially children, to give the mixture a stir, and make a wish while doing so. You are also supposed to stir the mixture from East to West to honour the journey made by the Wise Men.
Coins: It is still common for people to include small silver coins (traditionally sixpence) in the pudding mixture. Whoever gets the serving with the coin in the middle gets to keep it and it is believed to bring them wealth in the coming year. This same practice is done with a tiny wishbone (to bring good luck), a silver thimble (for thrift), or an anchor (to symbolise safe harbour). Top Tip: If you are putting any coins or trinkets into your pudding, make sure they are sterilised and that those eating are aware there may be something in their pudding.
The name: The dish known today as ‘Christmas pudding' began its life as a Christmas porridge called Frumenty, made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. This was eaten as a fasting meal in preparation for the Christmas festivities. Like so many British dishes, it has evolved over the centuries from a simple peasant's meal to a treasured celebration dish.
Sainsbury's are working with award-winning celebrity baker, Dan Lepard to encourage families to participate in Stir Up Sunday - the traditional day to bake your Christmas pudding.
Where to next?More Christmas recipes
Homemade mince pies with a twist
30 Christmas recipes to make in advance