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How to steam a Christmas pudding

·5-min read
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping

Steaming a Christmas pudding can seem like a daunting method for the first time: Is there enough water in the pan? Is the water hot enough? How long do I steam a Christmas pudding for?

It can feel a little daunting, especially if you have loving chosen and made your Christmas pudding recipe from scratch - plus paid out for all the right ingredients needed.

It's actually easy to steam a Christmas pudding and it should happily cook with minimum effort from you (other than regular checks to ensure the pan has not boiled dry). But there are a few things you need to do to ensure all runs smoothly and you avoid a nightmare before Christmas scenario.

Follow our tips, and you'll be happily steaming away ready to feed your friends and family.

First of all choose the Christmas pudding you plan to make and prepare. This year we recommend our chocolate orange Christmas pudding - which is a zesty pudding with a chocolatey twist. But if you looking for a classic Christmas pudding we love this classic plum pudding version made with rum.

How to steam a Christmas pudding

  1. Make sure the water comes halfway up the sides of the pudding basin, but not too high so that the water gets inside the foil/parchment lid and into the Christmas pudding.

  2. Have the water simmering before starting to mix the Christmas pudding mixture, this makes sure the pudding starts steaming right away which is important for the raising agents as well as your timings.

  3. Use a small upturned saucer at the bottom of your pan to protect your pudding bowl from the intense heat (which may cause your basin to crack).

  4. As long as there is a gentle simmer and steam is being created in your pan then your water is hot enough to cook your pudding.

  5. Resist lifting the lid of the steaming pan for the first 30 minutes; like baking a cake, the drop in temperature could cause the pudding to collapse. However after this time, do check on the pudding regularly to make sure that the pan does not boil dry.

  6. Make sure you cover the basin well with the parchment and foil, if the water gets in then your Christmas pudding will be soggy. And be sure to make a pleat in your lid to give the pudding space to rise.

  7. Follow your recipe for the steaming times of your pudding, but if you do need to check then you can insert a skewer through the foil and parchment to check that it comes out clean. Simply patch up the hole with more foil if your pudding needs more time to steam.

  8. Once the Christmas pudding is cooked, cool and cover with fresh parchment and foil before storing in a cool dry place. Reheat in the same way as you steamed your pudding for 1-2 hours

When to cook a Christmas pudding

Traditionally you prepare your Christmas pudding on Stir-up Sunday, which this year (2021) falls on 21 November.

It's a Victorian tradition, when the family would gather five weeks before Christmas for a ritual of stirring the Christmas pudding. Stir-up Sunday marks the last Sunday before advent.

Do you have to make your pudding five weeks in advance?

No, not really. Some say you need to prepare a pudding in advance to allow the flavours to mature but at Good Housekeeping we have been making puddings (and triple testing them) for years and a pudding will taste just as good made nearer the time. Or even on the day itself - should you have the time. We'd recommend this quick Christmas pudding recipe that can be made in the microwave and prepped and cooked in under half an hour.

Can I reheat a Christmas pudding in a microwave?

We usually suggest to steam your pudding in a pan for consistency and ease, but it takes around 1.5hr . But yes, you can reheat your pudding in the microwave. Remove the old lid and just tie a fresh piece of parchment loosely on the top.

Cook on Medium for 3-5min depending on basin size, until the pudding is piping hot in the centre.

Either use a temperature probe to check it’s around 65-70C, or push a metal skewer into the centre for a few secs, then remove it and touch it briefly to the inside of your wrist – it should be too hot to keep it on your skin.

How to light a Christmas pudding?

You can’t douse a Christmas pudding in a bit of booze, hold a lighter to it and expect it to ignite majestically. Flambé-ing takes a little more effort, and we have the perfect method to ensure maximum safety and no singed eyebrows.

Get everyone sat down and ready, unmould your reheated pudding on to a heatproof serving plate and bring it to the table. Light three or four tealights, put them next to the pudding and turn off any lights so the room is dark.

Take a large metal ladle, half-fill it with a 40% or more alcohol spirit, such as brandy, rum or whisky, then heat the bottom of the ladle above the lit candles until the liquid gets really hot and starts to slightly bubble around the edge.

Carefully tilt the ladle towards one of the flames (or ask someone to light a match and hold it near to the top of the ladle) so the surface of the alcohol catches alight, then stand back slightly, pour the flaming booze over the pudding and await applause.

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