Carol Wilson tempts us away from traditional Christmas cakes and puds

If your family don’t like rich fruity Christmas cake and pudding, you might like to try these alternatives which are lighter but just as festive and delicious.Cranberry, orange and walnut pudding220g cranberries4 tablespoons fresh orange juice500ml milk200g fresh breadcrumbs75g golden granulated sugar1 egg1 teaspoon grated orange zest75g walnuts, roughly choppedgolden icing sugar to finishSoak the cranberries in the orange juice for at least two hours. Heat the milk in a pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the breadcrumbs. Stir well and leave until almost cold. Beat well until thick, and then beat in the egg, most of the sugar, orange zest and half the walnuts. Pour into a well buttered 23cm baking or flan dish and sprinkle with the remaining nuts and sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes Gas 4/180ºC until golden. Serve hot or cold dredged with sifted icing sugar. Serves 4.Candied fruit pudding225g candied fruit, for example citrus peel, cherries, pineapple, etc 3 tablespoon fruit liqueur (cherry, orange, etc) or brandy 6 tablespoons golden caster sugar 225g Madeira cake cut into 2.5cm cubes450ml single cream4 eggs, beatenSoak the fruits in the liqueur or brandy for at least an hour. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of the sugar on the base and sides of six greased dariole moulds. Combine the soaked fruit with the cake cubes and divide between the moulds. Heat the cream and remaining sugar until the sugar has dissolved completely. Remove from the heat, cool slightly then beat in the eggs. Pour evenly into the moulds, over the cake mixture. Place the moulds in a large roasting tin and pour in hot water to come halfway up the sides of the moulds. Bake for 40-45 minutes Gas 4/180ºC until the puddings have set. Remove from the water and leave for a few minutes before turning out and serving with cream. Serves 6.Christmas syllabub75g sultanas grated zest and juice of 1 large orange4 tablespoons ginger wine3 tablespoons dark rum600ml double cream1 teaspoon ground cinnamon1 teaspoon ground ginger50g flaked almonds75g dark Muscovado sugar1 tablespoon chopped crystallised gingerPut the sultanas, orange rind, ginger wine and rum into a small bowl. Cover and leave overnight. Next day, mix together the orange juice and Muscovado sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cream and spices and whisk until stiff, then fold in the soaked sultanas. Spoon into serving glasses and sprinkle with the almonds.  Chill before serving. Serves 6-8.Chocolate baked AlaskaUse a ready made chocolate loaf cake to make these tempting desserts3 tablespoons rum or brandy4 tablespoons sultanas or raisins8 chocolate cookies4 scoops vanilla or rum and raisin ice cream4 square slices chocolate cake3 egg whites175g light Muscovado sugarPlace the sultanas or raisins in a small bowl with the rum or brandy, cover and leave to stand for at least two hours. Grind the cookies to crumbs and place on a plate. Roll the scoops of ice cream in the crumbs, until completely covered, then place them on a baking tray and open freeze for at least 30 minutes until firm, then cover with cling film. Place the cake slices well apart on a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper and scatter a spoonful of the soaked sultanas or raisins on each slice. Place a scoop of ice cream in the centre of each and return to the freezer. Whisk the sugar into the egg whites, a tablespoonful at a time until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Spoon the meringue over the ice cream and spread to cover completely. Bake for about 5 minutes Gas 8/230ºC until starting to brown. Serve immediately. Serves 4.Medjool date and almond cakeMedjool dates, plump, rich and sticky, with a glorious toffee-like flavour, and more expensive than ordinary boxed dates, are well worth the extra!150g Medjool dates, roughly chopped110g sultanas110g blanched almonds roughly chopped75ml Amaretto liqueur150g unsalted butter150g light Muscovado sugar3 eggs, beaten110g self raising flour110g ground almondsTo decorate: 2 tablespoons apricot jam 300g almond paste or marzipanTo finish: beaten egg yolk for glazingPut the dates, sultanas and walnuts in a small bowl and pour over the liqueur. Cover and leave to soak overnight. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the eggs. Sift in the flour and gently fold into the mixture with the ground almonds. Stir in the soaked fruit and spoon into a 20cm greased lined cake tin.  Bake for 40-50 minutes Gas 4/180ºC until cooked through – when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack. Roll out the almond paste on a surface dusted with icing sugar and cut out a circle using the base of the cake tin as a guide. Cut out holly leaves with a cutter from the surplus marzipan. Heat the jam until melted then brush over the top of the cake. Place the almond paste circle on top of the cake. Place the holly leaves around the edge. Brush the marzipan with beaten egg yolk and put the cake into the oven for about 5 minutes at Gas 6/200ºC until the marzipan is lightly browned. Cool the cake completely. Store, wrapped in greaseproof paper in an airtight tin for up to a week.Spiced Christmas tart225g shortcrust pastry75ml sweet white wine600ml double cream4 egg yolks2-3 tablespoons golden caster sugarpinch ground macepinch ground ginger1 cinnamon stick1 whole clove1 teaspoon saffron threads110g medjool dates, sliced55g ready to eat prunes, sliced55g ready to eat figs, slicedLine a deep 20cm flan dish or tin with the pastry. Bake ‘blind’ for 15 minutes, Gas 7/220ºC. Put the wine, cream, egg yolks, sugar and spices in a bowl over a pan of simmering (not boiling) water and cook gently, stirring until starting to thicken. Leave to cool. Place the dried fruits in the pastry case and strain over the cooled custard. Bake for 20-25 minutes Gas 4/180ºC until the filling has set. Serve warm or cold. Serves 4-6.Mincemeat pudding75g butter75g dark Muscovado sugar2 eggs, beaten110g self raising flour225g mincemeatCream the butter and sugar until light. Gradually beat in the eggs. Gently fold in the flour, followed by the mincemeat. Spoon into a buttered shallow 20cm baking dish and cook for 10 minutes Gas 3/170ºC, then reduce the heat to Gas 2/160ºC and cook for about another 30-40 minutes until cooked through and golden. Serve with cream or custard. Serves 4.Cranberry, orange  and almond cake225g unsalted butter225g golden caster sugar4 eggs plus 1 egg yolk75ml fresh orange juicefinely grated zest of 1 orange 110g cranberries225g self raising flour1 teaspoon baking powder75g flaked almondsTo finish: golden icing sugar 1 egg white, lightly beatencranberriesgolden caster sugar.Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the whole eggs and yolk, one at a time, followed by the orange juice and zest. Sift in the flour and baking powder and gently fold into the butter mixture with the cranberries. Spoon into a 20cm greased lined cake tin. Scatter the almonds on top. Bake for 50-60 minutes, Gas 4/180ºC until cooked through – when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then finish cooling on a wire rack. This keeps well in an airtight tin for up to five days. Just before serving sift over the golden icing sugar and scatter with frosted cranberries.To frost the cranberries: brush the berries with lightly beaten egg white and toss in golden caster sugar. Leave to dry on non stick baking paper.Golden fruit cake175g dried apricots6 tablespoons whisky or brandy225g buttergrated rind and juice of 1 lemongrated rind and juice of 1 orange225g light Muscovado sugar50g ground almonds4 eggs225g plain flourpinch of salt175g multi coloured glace cherries, chopped110g stem or crystallised ginger, chopped finely110g glacé pineapple, coarsely chopped110g candied peel, chopped coarsely50g candied mango or papaya110g walnuts, roughly choppedDECORATION110g physalis (Cape gooseberries)110g golden granulated sugar2 tablespoons waterSoak the apricots in the whisky or brandy for at least four hours or overnight. Cream the butter and sugar with the lemon and orange rinds until light and fluffy, then stir in the almonds. Whisk the eggs until pale and thick, then gradually whisk into the creamed mixture until well mixed. Sift the flour and salt into the bowl and gently fold into the mixture with a metal spoon. Stir in the orange and lemon juices, soaked apricots, the candied fruits, ginger and the walnuts. Spoon into a buttered 23cm round cake tin lined with a double thickness of buttered greaseproof paper or non-stick baking parchment and make a slight hollow in the centre. Bake just below the centre of the oven for 21/2 hours, Gas 2/150ºC, then cover the cake loosely with foil and reduce the heat to Gas 1/140ºC and bake for another 11/2–2 hours until cooked through – test with a skewer, which should come out clean. Cool the cake in the tin, then turn out and wrap in greaseproof paper and foil and store in a cool but not cold place for up to three weeks.   To make the decoration: just before serving the cake, fold back the papery leaves of physalis (Cape gooseberries) to reveal the yellow fruit. Place the golden granulated sugar in a pan with the water and heat until the sugar has dissolved completely. Boil for 2–3 minutes and remove from the heat. Dip the physalis carefully into the hot caramel and place on a cold surface to set, but don’t chill them. The contrast of crunchy caramel coating and soft juicy berries is delicious. Incidentally, physalis are rich in vitamin C.Enjoy! 

This article is from the December 2006 issue of Country Smallholding magazine. << To order back issues click the link to the left.



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