Some cooks age their Christmas pudding for up to a year. This recipe, an adaptation of one in The Constance Spry Cookery Book (J. M. Dent and Sons, 1956), is much quicker but yields equally good results.
For the Pudding
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 3 1⁄2 cups fresh white bread crumbs
- 2 cups dried currants
- 1 3⁄4 cups seedless golden raisins
- 1 3⁄4 cups seedless raisins
- 1 1⁄2 cups light brown sugar
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- 1⁄3 lb. cold beef suet, membranes removed, grated
- 2⁄3 cup stout, such as Guinness
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped candied lemon peel
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped candied orange peel
- 1⁄4 cup slivered almonds
- 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1⁄2 tsp. ground allspice
- 1⁄2 tsp. salt
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 granny smith apple, stemmed, cored, peeled, and coarsely grated
- Juice and finely grated zest of a small orange
For the Custard
- 4 cups milk
- 1⁄2 cup sugar
- 8 egg yolks
- 1⁄4 tbsp. flour
- 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
- 1⁄2 cup brandy, optional
For the pudding: Grease a 10-cup pudding basin or a heatproof ceramic bowl with butter; set aside. Put bread crumbs, currants, raisins, sugar, flour, suet, stout, peels, almonds, nutmeg, allspice, salt, eggs, apple, and orange juice and zest into a large bowl; mix well. Transfer mixture to basin; pat down to remove any air pockets. Cover basin with 2 layers of waxed paper and 2 layers of foil; tie tightly with twine.
Put basin on a rack in a wide deep pot. Add enough water to reach two-thirds of the way up the sides of the basin. Cover; bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer; steam for 8 hours (replenish water as necessary). Carefully remove basin; let cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove twine, foil, and paper. Run a knife around edge of pudding to loosen it; turn it out onto a serving platter.
For the custard: Whisk together milk and sugar in a small pot; bring just to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisk yolks in a medium heatproof bowl until frothy. While whisking constantly, gradually pour in hot milk mixture; whisk in flour and vanilla. Pour water into a medium pot to a depth of 2"; bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Place bowl of egg–milk mixture over simmering water; cook, stirring constantly, until it resembles a thin pudding, about 35 minutes. Strain custard through a fine sieve into a pitcher or bowl.
To serve: Warm brandy in a pot; carefully light brandy with a match and pour over pudding. When flames die out, serve with custard (4 tbsp. per serving).