What in the heck is figgy pudding anyhow? It's mentioned in Little Drummer Boy, my contribution to the boxed set Love, Christmas – Holiday Stories That Will Put a Song in Your Heart, but I never tasted it. Since I needed to write a blog about food, I figured I'd put in a little test time in the kitchen.
If you’ve already read LDB, or any of my books, you know about Evie, a time traveler from the 21st century who has chosen to remain in the 1780s. In Little Drummer Boy, she is trying to learn about 18th century Christmas traditions. One of her challenges is preparing figgy pudding.
“My first attempt at figgy pudding was flat, but sweet. It may not have been pretty, but there weren’t any leftovers, either.”
Figs, grapes (raisins), apples, and cranberries grow in North Carolina, and Evie's father-in-law, Julian, is generous and well-traveled, so she probably had a well-stocked spice cabinet, too. I didn't have cloves, so substituted coriander. Maybe she did the same thing. I forgot to ask.
One thing that bothers me (and many others, I’m sure) is an author’s lack of research about period life. Did you know that in the 1780s there was no such thing as baking powder or baking soda? That's why they ate bannocks instead of nice, fluffy biscuits.
Evie has something others in her era do not, though. When her eldest daughter traveled back to the 18th century to be with her (full story in Aye, I am a Fairy), one of the items she brought back to share with Mom was baking soda. Great for brushing teeth and making cookies. Evie decides to try a bit of it in her second attempt at figgy pudding.
I had to do a little experimenting, too. I gave up wheat (gluten) and refined sugars, so minor adjustments to the online recipes I found and combined had to be made.
*¼ cup raisins
*¼ cup dried cranberries (Craisins®)
*...Re-hydrate these in a cup of very hot water. Drain and let cool.
¼- ½ cup pared and chopped apples (I used Golden Delicious from my yard)
2 cups fig spread (I made my own from fresh figs. You can reconstitute dried ones by cooking about a cup of figs with a cup of water until pulpy, then mash the heck out of them. Sometimes fig spread is available in specialty stores or make your own from cooking down and mashing fresh figs).
1 ¼ cup flour or gluten-free baking mix
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp coriander (or cloves)
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
Mix these dry ingredients in separate bowl.
½ cup melted unsalted butter
3 large eggs, gently beaten
2 cups bread crumbs, any kind of bread, including gluten-free varieties. I use my Magic Bullet® to make mine, but a blender or food processor should work, too.
LAST & DON’T FORGET THIS ITEM:
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Add the dry ingredients and fruit to the bread crumbs, eggs, and melted butter. When all is mixed together, add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. This is what makes the batter rise! Stir well, then spoon into buttered (or oiled or use that spray stuff) bundt pan, mini muffin tins or glass/ceramic cups.
Traditional figgy pudding is steamed. You could put the batter in a bundt pan, cover with foil, and then put that pan in another pan, stick the works in the oven for an hour or so, hopefully remembering to add water to the bigger pan as it gets cooked away... Sorry, folks, I didn’t try that way. Too much chance of getting burned: either the pudding or me or both. The steaming procedures on other recipes looked too complicated, so I didn’t bother. Besides, my batter was made with baking soda and vinegar for leavening, not baking powder. Once again, I'd experiment and find another way.
1) Stove top. This was easy, but I was only able to put a generous one cup of batter in the ‘chili and chowder’ mug that I used for the actual steaming. You could use a bundt pan or metal bowl and put it in a big canning pot OR cook leftover batter in a different way (see next variation). When you steam my way, fill the pan/bowl/cup of batter to a little more than half full. Put this container into a pan on the stove top. I used my 40-year-old two-part aluminum steamer pot. Fill with water to about half way up the side of the pan/bowl/cup. Cover, bring to a boil, and then let it simmer (make steam) for about an hour. When a sharp knife stuck in the pudding comes out clean, it's done.
2) Oven ‘Mookies.’ Both quick and easy. I amply filled a well-greased mini muffin tins with batter and cooked it at 350 degrees for 16 minutes. When they had cooled down but were still warm, I used a table knife to urge them out of the pan. Place on cooling rack.
These were so cute and fast! I started calling anything I baked this way a Mookie: not big enough to be a muffin, but bigger and moister than a cookie. It works great with the baking soda and apple cider vinegar combination.
The picture above is the Mookies surrounding the steamed pudding. Flaming the works and then adding the whipped cream would make a better photo, but I'm the only one around to eat this today, so I'll wait until the crowd is back.
What other foods are mentioned in Little Drummer Boy? Find out more about Scout and 18th century Christmas traditions and trials in Love, Christmas - Holiday Stories That Will Put a Song in Your Heart.