Figs are also considered a fruit of knowledge (continuing last week’s theme) that trace their origins to ancient cultures and mythology. Figs are a popular summer fruit, characterized by their smooth outer skins and textural fleshy insides filled with soft seeds. Fresh figs have a short shelf life, but because the fruits can be easily sun dried, they are available year-round. Good quality dried figs preserve all of the concentrated sweetness while also retaining the fruit’s moist chewy consistency. Fresh figs, like many other fruits, are not good for baking. Dried figs add sweetness, moisture, and fudgy density to cakes and Christmas pudding.
At a recent party, I was reminded of holiday traditions while singing the carol about “figgy pudding.” My mother used to make a steamed Christmas cake, heavy with chopped dried fruits and nuts. She would assemble the cake in November, and then dutifully tend to the cake over the next few weeks. The cake’s airtight container would be pulled out from the back of a cupboard every other day, and the many layers of foil surrounding the cake would be unwrapped. Brandy was drizzled over the golden brown cake, before it was re-wrapped and put back into the tin. The final rich dark cake was worth the wait!
Distracted by Thanksgiving, I never remember to start the cake’s process in November and neither do I have the patience to chop up so much dried fruit. Steamed fig pudding maintains many of the elements of the traditional Christmas pudding or cake, but requires much less effort. The dense cake keeps well for a week.
Steamed Fig Pudding
Milk – ½ cup
Dried Figs – 16oz, chopped into small pieces
Butter – ½ cup, melted
Eggs – 2
Molasses – ½ cup
Brown sugar – ¼ cup
Flour – 2 ½ cups, sifted well
Baking powder (double acting) – 2 tsp
Baking soda – ½ tsp
Preserved ginger – 3 tbsp, chopped
Nutmeg – 1 tsp, freshly grated
Cinnamon – ½ tsp
Brandy – 4 tbsp
- Heat the milk in a small pan.
- Add the chopped up figs to the milk and poach gently for about 5 minutes. Strain the softened figs and keep aside.
- Beat the butter and eggs together.
- Add the sugar and molasses to the egg mixture and mix well.
- Add the sifted flour and baking powder and soda to the mixture. Mix until all the flour has been folded into the mixture.
- Fold the remaining ingredients to the flour mixture.
- Spoon the mixture into a greased, non-stick Bundt pan.
- Place the Bundt pan over a large pan with boiling water. (The base of the Bundt pan should just skim the boiling water.) Cover with aluminum foil, sealing the sides tightly. Put the lid over the foil, to prevent any steam from escaping. Cook for four hours, topping the water in the large pan as necessary. Remove pudding from pan and serve immediately. Otherwise, store in an airtight container.
Serve with ice cream or brandy sauce with orange zest and preserved ginger.