Christmas Pudding may be traditional but it’s not to everyone’s taste.
Breaking with tradition at Christmas is a fraught business; slight deviations from the norm can provoke intense emotions in situations that might already feel a bit eggshelly underfoot. However let me encourage you to acts of bravery – it is not written in stone that Christmas Pudding must be served and if you predict unrest you can always have a small pud for the diehards. Ditto for those who feel Christmas isn’t Christmas without a sherry soaked trifle.
Now let’s move on to something more interesting.
Dark Chocolate and Sour Cherry Panforte
If you’re planning a sophisticated grown-up affair that perhaps starts with oysters and progresses onto goose then this deeply dark and delicious twist on an Italian classic will be a fitting finish with glass of Klein Constatia’s Vin de Constance as recommended in our Christmas Wines post.
It can be made well in advance and will keep for up to a month.
225g blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
150g blanched hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
100g each dried figs and dried sour cherries, coarsely chopped
30gmdark chocolate (64% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped
20g Dutch-process cocoa, sieved, plus 25gm extra for dusting
2tsp ground cinnamon
½tsp ground white pepper
75gm caster sugar
Preheat oven to 190C. Use one large sheet of baking paper to line the base and sides of a 22cm-diameter cake tin, so that there are no gaps (don’t worry about creases). Combine nuts, figs, sour cherries, chocolate and cocoa with half the cinnamon and ½ tsp ground white pepper in a bowl.
Stir honey and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then cook without boiling until syrupy (2-3 minutes).
Working quickly, pour honey mixture over nut mixture and mix well to combine, then spoon into prepared cake tin, presssing well into tin and smooth top with a hot, wet spatula. Bake until dark and glossy (35-40 minutes). Cool completely in tin (3-4 hours).
Combine extra cocoa with remaining cinnamon, remove panforte from tin and dust top with cocoa. Wrap tightly in baking paper, then in wrapping of your choice. The flavour of panforte will develop over time so it’s best eaten after a few days; it will keep wrapped for up to a month.
A Christmas Bombe has a lot to commend it to those who find it hard to let go of trad puds, its shape is reminiscent of the Christmas Pud and the lashings of booze are a nod to the trifle tribe. This Good Food one is a vision of snowy glory and will look apt on the table but there’s also a fab Jamie Oliver bombe recipe that uses Panettone as a cakey contrast to the ice cream texture – it has a few more steps to follow but is still dead simple and certainly worth a peek.
85g pack dried cranberries
6 tbsp brandy
2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
284ml pot double cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
100g frozen cranberries (keep them frozen, or freeze your own)
600ml good-quality fresh vanilla custard
brandy butter, to serve (optional)
Cranberry brandy butter sauce
85g light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp brandy
100g frozen cranberries
Put the dried fruit into a large bowl, add 2 tbsp brandy and the sugar, then cover with cling film. Microwave on High for 2 mins until the sugar has melted and the fruit plumped up. Give it a stir, then leave to cool and soak overnight. If you’re short of time, carry on with step 2 and leave to soak for as long as it takes to complete step 2.
Put the cream, remaining brandy and icing sugar into a large bowl and whip to soft peaks. Pour the custard into another bowl and fold the cream into it. Tip into a freezer container and freeze the mix for 4 hrs, stirring the frozen edges into the rest of the mixture every hour or so until the whole tub is soft, but frozen (or use an ice cream machine, churning for 20-30 mins until thick). Meanwhile, line a 1.2-litre pudding basin with cling film.
Once the ice cream mix is thick, quickly fold the soaked fruit (and any liquid from it) and frozen cranberries through it and spoon into the lined basin. Freeze overnight or for at least 6 hrs. To serve, leave bombe at room temperature for 10 mins and turn out onto a serving plate.
To make the cranberry brandy butter sauce, in a heavy-based pan gently heat muscovado sugar and butter until the sugar dissolves.
Splash in brandy, add cranberries and boil gently till the cranberries pop, but still hold their shape and colour the sauce. If you want to, sieve the seeds out of the sauce and add some more cranberries for a really glossy finish. Serve hot or warm.
This cake may look like slightly wallflowerish but it is absolutely delicious and perfect for those overwhelmed by rich fare. I make Clementine Cake every year and it is by far my favourite sweet offering of the season, the tang of clementine is a welcome relief after all the hearty heavy feasting. Again it pairs beautifully with a glass of pudding wine and looks demure but suitably seasonal dusted with icing powder.
It also works if you have gluten free guests.
375g clementines (approx. 3 medium-sized ones)
6 large eggs
225g white sugar
250g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder (see NOTE below)
Put the clementines in a pan with some cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours. Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the pips. Dump the clementines – skins, pith, fruit and all – and give a quick blitz in a food processor (or by hand, of course). Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190ºC/375ºF.
Butter and line a 21cm / 8 inch Springform tin.
You can then add all the other ingredients to the food processor and mix. Or, you can beat the eggs by hand adding the sugar, almonds and baking powder, mixing well, then finally adding the pulped oranges.
Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for an hour, when a skewer will come out clean; you’ll probably have to cover with foil or greaseproof after about 40 minutes to stop the top burning. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, on a rack, but in the tin. When the cake’s cold, you can take it out of the tin. I think this is better a day after it’s made, but I don’t complain about eating it at any time.
NOTE: to make this cake gluten-free, make sure to use gluten-free baking powder, or omit the baking powder altogether.
Dark Chocolate and Sour Cherry Panforte from Gourmet Traveller.
Christmas Bombe from BBC Good Food
Clementine Cake by Nigella Lawson
If you have any sweet toothed chums searching for alternative Christmas treats please ‘like’ and ‘share’ this post using the social buttons.