The Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap….

 Christmas Eve is almost here! I have always loved Christmas Eve, perhaps even more than Christmas. It’s a day of anticipation, festiveness, and wonderful smells wafting from the kitchen. Nothing can be more appropriate to a Christmas celebration than Christmas Pudding, also known as Plum Pudding, or Figgy Pudding. Below is a simple recipe that can be made in the microwave (saving you about 5 1/2 hours of steaming on the stovetop!). Our family enjoyed Christmas Pudding last year on New Year’s Day. It made a very festive start to the year.

CHEAT’S CHRISTMAS PUDDING
(adapted from Julia Child’s ‘The Way To Cook’ via About.com)

3 cups (lightly packed) crumbs from homemade type white bread, crust on is fine-I used part of an  Italian loaf (to make this pudding gluten-free, simply substitute gluten-free brown rice bread or whatever gluten-free bread you prefer)
1 cup each: black raisins, golden raisins, currants
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup butter, melted
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
few drops of almond extract
1/2 c. orange marmalade

For flaming:
1/2 c. rum or bourbon whiskey or brandy

Make the bread crumbs in a food processor or blender. Toss bread crumbs in a bowl with the raisins, currants, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Mix in the melted butter, eggs, almond extract, and orange marmalade:

Butter a microwave-safe bowl and cover the bottom of the dish with a piece of parchment paper. Pour in the batter. Cover with plastic wrap and pierce the plastic with a knife in several places. Place in the microwave and cook on “defrost” (low speed) for 30 minutes (this was power level 3 on my microwave). Finally, cook on high for 5 minutes. Let the pudding sit for a few minutes before unmolding. (I left mine in the mold until ready to serve at which time I could pop it back in the microwave to warm it up.) The pudding is ready when it is firm to the touch (it will be firm but also spongy). The pudding will also be paler than a properly steamed pudding.

To serve: Heat the brandy, whisky or rum in saucepan until warmed. Pour over the unmolded pudding and ignite. Serve immediately or ignite at the table. Serve with brandy butter.

BRANDY AND GINGER BUTTER
(adapted from www.bbcgoodfood.com)

1 cup butter, softened
grated zest of one orange
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup brandy or cognac
2 pieces of stem ginger or candied ginger, finely chopped

With a handheld mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until well-combined. Store in fridge until ready to use.

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