The Ladies' Tea Guild

Monday, December 2, 2013

Oh, bring us some figgy pudding!

vintage pudding mold.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
I finally got started on my baking last week, and hopefully I'll get it all done before I have to start giving baked goods away as Christmas presents!  Don't want to give out any I.O.U.s for cookies ...  Anyway, I got the two kinds of Italian cookies baked, as well as two apple pies (for Thanksgiving), and the first historic recipe of the season: figgy pudding!  I recently bought an antique pudding mold in one of the antique shops in Niles, and I've been wanting to use it ever since!  Unfortunately, there was a bit of rust on the inside, so I wasn't sure if I could boil a pudding in it and avoid getting rust residue on the pudding.  I had received a tip that apple cider vinegar would remove the rust and leave the metal food-safe, but when I scrubbed the rust with the vinegar it didn't seem to remove any of it.  Granted, I didn't let it soak more than a minute or so before scrubbing ... I ended up deciding to line the mold with waxed paper instead of just buttering it like the recipe said, to give a little more protection.  We'll see if that was enough when the pudding comes out of the steamer!

making the bread crumbs.
Anyway, here is the original recipe and my step-by-step photos of the process.

Fig Pudding.

Time, to boil, four hours.
chopping the figs.

1/2 lb. bread crumbs [I used a little bit less]
1/2 lb. figs
6 oz. brown sugar [I used about 1 cup, packed]
2 eggs
nutmeg to taste [I used 1/3 freshly grated whole nutmeg]
1/4 lb. suet [I used cold unsalted butter]
a little milk
2 oz. flour [I used about 1 1/2 cups]

chopping the butter.
The figs and suet to be chopped very fine, and well mixed with the bread-crumbs, flour, sugar, and nutmeg; then stir all the ingredients well together, and add two eggs well beaten, and a little milk; press the whole into a buttered mould, tie it over with a thick cloth, and boil it.  Serve it with wine sauce or without, as you please.
-- from _Warne's Model Cookery_, ca. 1890.

adding the flour.
I had to adjust the ingredients and method a bit.  First, I made the
bread crumbs: this is a great way to use up the bakery bread that you get and don't eat all of it within the first 2 days.  I had 2 sandwich rolls, 2 bagels, and the end of a French loaf; the bagels proved too dense and hard to grate by hand, so I just did the rolls and French loaf end, and got about 3 to 4 cups of crumbs.

grating the nutmeg.
Then I chopped the figs: a very sticky job!  I added them to the bread crumbs and tossed them together to coat the figs with the crumbs and keep the pieces separate (as much as possible).  I didn't have any suet so I used 1 stick of unsalted butter, and chopped it into approximately the same size pieces as the figs.  Then I tossed the butter pieces in the figs and bread crumbs to coat them.

adding the brown sugar.
Next I added the other ingredients, sort of eyeballing the amount of each ingredient instead of measuring, keeping in mind the final texture I wanted.  I forgot to beat the eggs before adding them, but I hope that won't make too much difference.  I knew I wanted to end up with a texture like soft dough, rather than a runny batter, so I just added milk -- about 1 cup -- and mixed it in, and adjusted with more flour and milk until I got the right texture.  I ended up having to mix the dough with my hands instead of the spoon because I knew I wanted to get all the bread crumbs mixed in thoroughly with the other ingredients.

adding the eggs.
Then I got a kettle of water boiling, and borrowed my roommate's largest saucepan (which is actually a wok) because my saucepans wouldn't fit my pudding mold.  I lined my mold with waxed paper, gathered the pudding mixture into a ball, and pressed it by hand into the mold, making sure it got into all the fluted decorative areas.  Then I cut a circle of waxed paper to fit the top of the mold, covered the pudding with it, and put the lid on the mold.
figgy pudding dough.

Next I put the filled mold into the wok, and poured boiling water into the wok halfway up to the lid of the mold.  I put it over high heat until the water came back to a rolling boil, then I turned the heat down to medium-low and put the lid on the wok to keep the steam in.  It has to boil for 4 hours, and I have to check the water level periodically and make sure it doesn't boil dry.

pudding packed into the mold lined
and covered with waxed paper. 
Hopefully it will be cooked all the way through, and it won't stick to the waxed paper too much when I take it out of the mold!  Also, I hope that my Victorian Christmas caroling group will like it, since I made it for our last rehearsal this week!
the figgy pudding cooking in the pan.

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)