Before I met Husband, I had never experienced a plum pudding beyond the pages of a Dicken’s novel. His family’s tradition holds that, after a holiday dinner, the dark, dense-looking mass is brought out on a plate, doused in something very alcoholic – usually V.S.O.P – and set on fire.
Seriously. They light the flippin’ thing on fire.
Being ignorant of the stuff, and eager to make a good impression on the family of this guy I was crazy about, I eagerly accepted a plate of the dessert when it was offered to me at my first attendance at a holiday dinner. I then proceeded to scoop on a huge blop of what I thought was slightly over-whipped whipped cream, and dug in.
You know that feeling when you go to eat or drink something, and you think it’s one thing, but it turns out to be something else? That happened to me once at my grandparents’ house – I came upon a lovely, tall glass of something that looked all the world like chocolate milk that turned out to be iced coffee. BLECH! Well, that’s what happened when the plum pudding hit my tongue.
Let me point out here that there aren’t actual PLUMS in plum pudding, and the assumption that this dessert would be something sweet and fruity was my first mistake. It’s really a bread pudding made with raisins and currants, orange marmalade, a bunch of spices, and a good slosh of bourbon (Julia Child made this recipe famous in Husband’s family, if that tells you anything). The whole thing is put into a bowl and steamed for however long it takes to congeal into a solid mass. Then, like I said, more booze gets poured over and the whole thing is set alight. Sometimes, more than once in a sitting. Seriously.
Oh, and that stuff that looked like whipped cream? Hard sauce, which is, essentially, butter, confectioner’s sugar and….wait for it….more alcohol! About as unlike whipped cream as something can be.
Not being a big fan of spice cakes in general, and expecting something fruity and, well, pudding-like, I found that my first shocking experience with plum pudding was enough to ruin it for me forever. Though it IS fun to watch them do their pyrotechnics at the dinner table.
ANYWAY! Husband and I are hosting Christmas dinner at our house this year, and we’re taking advantage of that fact to sort of nudge the plum pudding off the table in favor of something a little less….harsh. We’d first thought we’d do the whole yule log thing, but then I stumbled across a couple of recipes for chocolate steamed pudding. CHOCOLATE! Now THERE’S something we can get behind! Hell, we could even douse it in Grand Marnier and set the thing on fire, if it comes down to that!
I made this tonight, a recipe from Martha Stewart, as a sort of test-run to see if it satisfied the requirements of a good plum pudding replacement. It LOOKED good, and it TASTED good, but I’m not quite sure it’s “it.” It’s a little too airy and light (yes, despite how it looks like a solid chunk of chocolate, it’s actually quite fluffy inside), and I’m not sure it’s dense enough to not soak up whatever we’re pouring over as accelerant. I’ve got a couple more recipes to try – including one that’s a steamed chocolate bread pudding, which I suspect will be best in the texture department.
When I find a winner recipe*, I’ll share.
(*if you have a winner recipe, point me to it, please!)