When we think of a traditional Christmas celebration, we tend to think of caroling, wrapping and unwrapping packages, the holly and the ivy, mistletoe, special family moments and food we only get to eat once a year. Basically, a scene straight out of “A Christmas Carol”.
Charles Dickens didn’t invent Christmas, however, but he certainly gave it a much-needed resuscitation.
According to the Guardian, “Britain’s newly urban population didn’t have much energy or opportunity to celebrate it, thanks to the extremely un-festive combination of long hours of unregulated industrial toil and displacement from the rural communities they’d grown up in.”
Apparently not the only one who tried to give Christmas a jumpstart, “Dickens was the most successful of numerous cultured Victorians keen to revive the season.”
Since we get our idea of Christmas from Dickens, why not try a couple of traditional English recipes?
First off, as you probably know, a traditional Christmas pudding is more of a soft, fruity cake than a gelatinous mass with marshmallows or whipped cream on top. This classic recipe is from Saveur, and is served with whipped cream.
Yield: makes 2
- 2 cups quality assorted raisins
- 2 cups brandy
- 1 1⁄2 oz. quality assorted candied fruits, such as pitted apricots, cherries, melon and citrus peel, cut into thin strips
- 5 tbsp cold beef suet or butter, diced
- 1 3⁄4 cups fine day-old bread crumbs
- 1 cup blanched almond meal
- 1⁄4 cup dark muscovado sugar
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
- 2 tbsp finely grated peeled carrot
- 1⁄2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
- 1⁄4 tsp finely grated orange zest
- 1 pinch ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 egg
- 1⁄2 tsp dark treacle or molasses
- 1⁄3 cup Guinness stout
- 2 tbsp fresh orange juice
- 3⁄4 tsp fresh lemon juice
- Macerate raisins in brandy for 1 hour. Drain, reserving 1⁄3 cup of the brandy. Preheat the oven to 450°.
- Put raisins, candied fruits, suet or butter, bread crumbs, almond meal, sugar, flour, coconut, carrots, zests, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl and stir well. Combine egg and treacle or molasses in another bowl. Stir in beer, juices and reserved brandy, add to fruit mixture and mix until evenly moist. Pack half the batter into each of 2 greased 2 ½-cup glazed-ceramic or glass bowls (about 3″ deep × 5″ wide). Cover each bowl with 2 layers of wax paper, then foil; secure with twine. Put bowls on a rack set in a wide deep pot. Add boiling water to the pot to reach 2″ up sides of bowls. Cover pot and steam puddings in the oven, replenishing water as necessary, for 4 1⁄2 hours.
- Remove bowls from the pot and let cool. Store puddings in a cool, dark, dry spot (or refrigerate) for at least 1 day and up to 2 years. If storing for longer than 1 day, replace covers. Reheat puddings by steaming them, still covered, for 1 hour. Unmold onto plates.
Traditional English Trifle
This trifle recipe comes from That Skinny Chick Can Bake.
- 10 ounces pound cake (I used a Sara Lee frozen pound cake)
- 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
- 12 ounces fresh raspberries (reserve a few to garnish the top of your trifle)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Sliced almonds to garnish, if desired
- Cut the pound cake into bite-sized cubes. Spread some jam on half the cubes and place in the bottom of a trifle dish. Spread jam on the rest of the cake and set aside.
- Sprinkle half the Grand Marnier, then half the raspberries over the cake layer.
- Make creme anglaise by heating the 2 cups of cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Beat together the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and pale yellow. Set aside.
- Just before the cream starts to boil, remove from heat. Very slowly drizzle some of the hot cream into the sugar/yolk mixture while beating or whisking constantly.
- Return the mixture to the pan and cook over low until mixture thickens and can coat a spoon. For the smoothest texture, do not allow it to boil. Run through a strainer if desired. Allow to cool before adding to the trifle.
- When the creme anglaise is cool, pour about half in the middle of the trifle, then layer more cake, sprinkle with the rest of the Grand Marnier and raspberries, then the rest of the creme anglaise.
- Whip the 2 cups of heavy cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Smooth whipped cream over the top of the trifle and garnish with raspberries and almonds, if desired.
That takes care of dessert for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! We hope you have a lovely, lovely day.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol