Yule be right

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By Jan Bilton

“Bring out the figgy pudding” rings the Christmas song. But what is it and how is it made?

Originating in England in the 1600s, this fruit pudding was the forerunner of the Christmas plum pudding — neither of which generally contained figs or plums. The pudding was a mixture of dried fruits steeped in brandy or sherry, with bread, spices and suet and which was either baked, boiled or steamed.

But whether baking, boiling or microwaving your Christmas sweet treats, please follow these rules. All ingredients should be at room temperature. Measurements should be level and preferably metric. Spoon the flour into a measuring cup to the required level — do not pack or shake down. Use heavy cake pans or line with two layers of baking paper. Although it is not necessary to grease the pans if they are to be lined, doing so ensures the paper sticks firmly to the pan and does not shift while you spoon in the mixture. Makes your treats well ahead so the flavours mellow and they are easier to cut.

Gluten-free festive cake

A gluten-free festive cake

Finely chop any large dried fruits, such as apricots and prunes.

1.2kg mixed dried fruit

1/2 cup each: orange juice, brandy

250g butter or Olivani, at room temperature

300g light brown sugar

5 large eggs

250g gluten-free flour

1 teaspoon each: ground cinnamon, ground mixed spice

pinch salt

blanched almonds, optional

Place the dried fruit in a large bowl. Add the orange juice and brandy and mix well. Cover and soak overnight.

Next day, preheat the oven to 150°C. Line the base and sides of a greased 23cm-25cm round spring-form cake pan with baking paper.

Beat the butter or Olivani and sugar together, until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. (A little of the flour can be added to prevent the mixture from curdling.) Sift the flour, spices and salt into a bowl then add to the sugar mixture alternately with the dried fruit and any liquid. Spoon into the cake pan and smooth the top with a wet hand. Decorate the top with the blanched almonds, if using.

Bake for about 2 1/4 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove and cool in the pan. Wrap in foil and store in a cool place.

  • Jan Bilton is Cambridge-based, professional food writer. For more of her recipes visit her website here.

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