The Gleeful Gourmand: December 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding! (Or Not)

Christmas is only six days away. Six! Do you know how I know that? It's not the calendar sitting next to me. That would require counting. No, my neighbor has a wonderful flag she puts out every December that counts down the days. I see it when I leave the house. I see it when I come home. I see it from my office window, and dining room window, and even in my dreams. It is a delightful flag...until it isn't. There seems to be a wall of insanity I hit every Christmas season. Things are fine, going swimmingly, if not a little busy, and there's plenty of time to get everything done. And then all of a sudden, it's so completely not fine, and the flag says there's six (six!!) days left, and I run face-first into the wall of insanity.

Actually, that's not completely true. I ran into the wall of Christmas insanity two days ago, when there were still eight days left. At this festive and insane time of year, all of us just want a moment to breathe, relax, make merry and enjoy. So last Friday we got together with some of our neighbors and went to see two unbelievably tacky light homes, and then ordered takeout and hung out while all the kids played. It was wonderful to take some time to laugh, eat, and not stress out.

"I won't get off your porch or stop singing until you give me a slice of this..."

I brought an unusual dessert (for us Americans, anyway): a Figgy Pudding. I have been obsessed with this dessert for awhile now, but have never buckled down to make it. It makes its own case in a Christmas carol we're always belting out: "We Wish You A Merry Christmas." This is the most demanding Christmas carol I've ever heard. Imagine with me: a bunch of freezing Brits, going around singing at every house, and then they get to one particular house and start harassing its occupants (in song, no less):

"Now bring us some Figgy Pudding, now bring us some Figgy Pudding, now bring us some Figgy Pudding, and a cup of good cheer!"

That's a tad rude. I mean, they don't even say "please." It gets worse:

"We won't go until we get some, we won't go until we get some, we won't go until we get some, so bring it right here!"

Wait, what? I can very plainly see the owner of the house, his brow furrowing ever deeper at these revelers' song. They won't go until they get some? Seriously? What are they going to do, just stand there in the freezing cold and keep singing until he forks it over? What if he doesn't? What if he has no Figgy Pudding?

Which brings me to my point: Based on the lyrics of this song, Figgy Pudding must be so incredibly good people will literally shout at you, and demand in chorus that you give them some, or they won't move from your porch. I needed to make this to find out for myself. Now, the British are not exactly well-known for their excellent cuisine, but their desserts, or "puddings," are pretty well-known. Besides which, I love figs. It was time to find out once and for all what all the hoopla was about.

After scouring Pinterest and the Interwebs for a good recipe, I finally hit on this one. It seemed just right. Not as complicated with head-scratching ingredients like Nigella Lawson's, but also not so simple that it could be made in a crockpot. I didn't have a special mould for it, so I used my soufflé dish. The first task was dicing 2 cups worth of dried figs. And boy, oh boy, was that fun.

Have you ever tried to dice dried figs? Like trying to chop rapidly hardening cement glue. It reminded me of that scene from "Gladiator" when Maximus escapes the Roman soldiers trying to kill him and it starts snowing in the forest, and he tells one of them, "The frost...it sometimes makes the blade stick," when the executioner can't draw his sword. And now you know the weird type of things that run through my head when I'm all alone in the kitchen.

Figgy Pudding
But I digress. The batter seemed very dense, and very thick. The smell of molasses was overwhelming, and I'm positive I forgot to whip the butter until it was light and fluffy, which may have accounted for the fact that it was rather dry and dense in the end. But no matter. It smelled amazing baking in the oven, and it came out of the soufflé pan perfectly. I even snipped a sprig of holly from my own holly bush out front to decorate it.

I told our neighbors that they were guinea pigs, and that it might really stink. To that end, instead of the normal whipped cream the recipe suggests serving with it, I made sweet bourbon whipped cream. Because everything tastes better with bourbon.

I knew I was going to have a problem with it with the first slice. It was way too dry on the outside, and although the flavor was very good, it just didn't do anything for me. All I could think about while I was eating it was another recipe I had seen where a hot toffee sauce was poured over the top of it. And that's exactly what this recipe needed. Less time in the oven, and drowned in a hot, boozy sauce.

My girlfriends swore they liked it. My husband said, "It's...very fibrous." One of the other husbands said, "Mmmmm..." and sort of trailed off, and the other left his sitting on the counter. I didn't blame him one bit.
Well, at least we got the "cup of good cheer" part right!

More wine and beer was poured, and the bourbon whipped cream tasted fabulous. So it's back to the drawing board with me and Figgy Pudding. The obsession has cooled off for now. At least until I can find a Brit who's willing to make me a real one.

Merry Christmas!