Now here's a true modern miracle. England's raisin-studded pudding, the traditional Christmas dessert for nearly 300 years, is steamed for four to five hours if made the old-fashioned way as Tiny Tim's mom did it. Our microwave version needs just 12 minutes.
It's best to prepare the pudding a week or two ahead of time, then to wrap it in brandy- or rum-soaked cloth and to store in an airtight canister in a very cool (50 degrees) dry spot. This way the pudding has a chance to season. Come serving time, all you need do is reheat the pudding by microwave, flame it and present it.
ENGLISH CHRISTMAS PUDDING
Brandy or dark rum
2 cups seedless raisins
1/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup tender white bread crumbs
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup prepared mincemeat
1 tablespoon minced candied citron
Rum Sauce, prepared hard sauce or whipped cream
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon brandy over raisins and let stand 30 minutes at room temperature.
Sift flour with baking powder, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and salt, then add crumbs, molasses, egg, lemon and orange zests and almond extract. Beat hard 30 seconds.
Stir in mincemeat, citron, raisins and brandy. Pack mixture lightly into greased microwave-safe 1-quart measure or microwavable bowl, lined on bottom with 2 circles wax paper. Cover with vented plastic wrap and microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) 11 to 12 minutes, rotating measure 90 degrees every 3 minutes.
Pudding is cooked when springy to touch and wood pick inserted in center comes out clean. Small moist circle in center of pudding will dry on standing.
Remove plastic wrap, cover pudding with foil, shiny side down, and let stand upright at room temperature 15 minutes. Loosen sides of pudding with spatula all way to bottom, then invert onto plate and carefully ease out of measure or bowl. Peel off wax paper.
To serve pudding immediately, let unmolded pudding cool 5 minutes. Invert onto serving dish and serve with Rum Sauce, hard sauce or whipped cream.
To season pudding, cool to room temperature. Wrap carefully in brandy- or rum-soaked cloth, overwrap in plastic wrap, place in airtight canister and set in cool dry spot.
To reheat plum pudding, remove outer wrappings and brandy- or rum-soaked cloth, then rewrap loosely in plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 1 minute. Turn pudding over, rotate 180 degrees and microwave on MEDIUM 1 to 2 minutes until warm, not steaming hot or pudding will be hard to slice. Let stand, still wrapped, 1 minute, then unwrap and serve.
To flame pudding, warm 1/4 cup brandy or dark rum in uncovered, microwave-safe 1-cup measure by microwaving on HIGH 15 to 20 seconds. Pour into large metal ladle, blaze with match, then pour flaming liquor over pudding. Also spoon little of liquor over each portion. Makes 8 servings.
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 2/3 cups milk
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Combine sugar and cornstarch in microwave-safe 6-cup measure. Whisk in milk and microwave, uncovered, on HIGH (100% power) 5 to 5 1/2 minutes, whisking every 2 minutes until sauce thickens. Blend in rum and vanilla. Makes 2 cups.
Note: In ovens of less than 600 watts, increase cooking times about 15%.