Two months ago, Dorothee Touzin was looking for a recipe for steamed pudding originally found in a cookbook put out by the WearEver cookware company. Thanks to Carole Bugg of Portage la Prairie and Betty Iverson of Minnedosa, who both sent in that exact recipe.
The WearEver recipe was penned back in the days when home economists assumed home cooks knew what they were doing (and they did). It doesn't offer much detail about the steaming process, and it also assumes that everyone is using a specific WearEver inset pan and steamer rack. I checked out some British cooking blogs for hints and have added some general cooking instructions, as well as directions for using a bowl or pudding basin.
In England, the steamed Christmas pudding is traditionally started on "Stir-up Sunday," the last Sunday before Advent. Everyone in the family takes a turn stirring the thick batter and making a wish.
Another Christmas request came from Cynthia Chrol, who was looking for a recipe for Brazil nut Yule cake. Last December, Recipe Swap featured a dark Brazil nut cake that used dates. This version, which favours candied cherries, has appeared once or twice in Recipe Swap over the years and is a real reader favourite. Thanks to Pamela Whitehead, who got this recipe from her mother, Marg Moore, which means that her family has been making this cake for seven decades. Thanks also to Janet Martin, Arlene Wiley, Anne Sawatsky, Joyce Voelpel, Beverley Bell, Wanda Lismer, Phyllis Kowalchuk of The Pas, Bernice Schultz of Manitou, Edna Mroz of Beausejour and Glenboro's Linda Snider.
The 12 Days of Christmas Cookies feature starts soon, and we're still looking for cookie recipes. I'm hoping to make a dozen different cookies, with a balance of crispy, chewy and tender cookies, and nutty, spicy, citrusy and chocolate-y cookies. If you can help with a recipe request, have your own request or a favourite recipe you'd like to share, send an email to email@example.com, fax it to 697-7412, or write to Recipe Swap, c/o Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. Please include your first and last name, address and telephone number.
Brazil Nut Yule Cake
310 ml (1 1/4 cups) sifted all-purpose flour
3 ml (3/4 tsp) baking powder
1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
750 ml (3 cups) shelled whole Brazil nuts
4 rings candied pineapple, cut into chunks
500 g (1 lb or about 2 1/4 cups) candied cherries
125 ml (1/2 cup) softened butter
175 ml (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla
5 ml (1 tsp) almond extract
Preheat oven to 150 C (300 F). Line a 22x12.5x5 cm (9x5x2 inch) loaf pan with greased parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in nuts, pineapple and cherries until each piece is coated. In a large bowl, cream butter. Gradually beat in sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in vanilla and almond extract. Fold in fruit and flour mixture. Turn batter into prepared pan and smooth down top. Bake 13/4-2 hours. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove cake from pan, peel off paper and cool completely on a rack.
Tester's notes: This rich cake is a great take on the standard fruit cake. I'm planning to wrap it and let the flavours develop. I recommend heading to the bulk food section for this recipe, as the cost of the ingredients quickly adds up.
Last year, I cautiously assumed that the Brazil nuts must be chopped. Several Recipe Swappers wrote in to say that the Brazil nuts absolutely must be whole, and it does make a real difference to the cake's texture. Wanda Lismer soaks the fruits overnight in about 50 ml (about 1/4 cup) of Drambuie, which lets the flavour infuse the fruit.
WearEver Steamed Pudding
60 ml (1/4 cup) butter
125 ml (1/2 cup) molasses
125 ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
1 egg, well beaten
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) graham or whole wheat flour
2 ml (1/2 tsp) baking soda
250 ml (1 cup) seeded raisins, cut into pieces (or chopped dried dates or figs)
Melt butter. In a medium bowl, mix butter, molasses, milk and egg. In a small bowl, sift together flour and baking soda. Add to first mixture. Stir in raisins (or dates or figs).
If you don't have a 1-litre (4-cup) pudding mould with a lid, you can use a greased heatproof bowl or pudding basin. (Pudding basins usually have a lip around the top, which helps to secure the wrapping.) Fill the vessel two-thirds to three-quarters with pudding batter. Take a large piece of aluminium foil, cover with a large piece of wax paper and grease the top of the wax paper. Fold a pleat in the centre, then place the wax paper and foil layers over the pudding basin with the buttered side of the wax paper down and the foil on top. Tie around the foil-covered basin very securely with kitchen string. Trim the foil and wax paper below the string. (This keeps them from dipping into the water, which could cause seepage.) Place a rack or trivet or overturned heatproof saucer in the bottom of a large heavy pot with a lid. Place the prepared bowl or pudding basin on the rack. (The pudding basin cannot touch the bottom of the pot.) Add water, pouring carefully down the side of the pot, until it reaches halfway up the side of the pudding basin, and then cook, covered, over low heat, periodically checking to see that the water is kept at a gentle simmer and replenishing the water as needed to keep the level at the halfway mark. A small pudding like this will take about 13/4-2 hours.
Serve warm with lemon sauce, butterscotch sauce, custard or brandy butter. Serves 6.
Tester's notes: This is a basic pudding recipe, but it comes out moist and dense with a nice dark, deep flavour. Inspired by the traditional Christmas song about figgy pudding, I used dried figs. I also added just a pinch of salt and some cinnamon. Other possibilities would be orange zest or a little minced crystallized ginger or any favourite spice.
It should be noted that the whole-wheat flour isn't a health thing; it's a necessary textural thing. I got in a bit of trouble using a sifter with several layers of mesh for this recipe: Some wheat bran and wheat germ got trapped between the layers, making the sifter tricky to clean. You can always use a fine-mesh sieve and shake the flour and baking soda over a bowl.
I actually own a small pudding basin, which came with a ruinously expensive store-bought pudding made by Duchy Originals, the organic food company run by Prince Charles. For many years, this bowl has been storing fridge magnets, so it was nice to put it to its proper use this year.