How can different sugars affect Christmas pudding?
With Christmas week fast approaching, we’ve explored how different sugars in Christmas puddings give distinct results.
What is a traditional Christmas pudding?
To be classed as a pudding, a cake must be cooked by being steamed in a basin on a hob. Eating the Christmas variety of this can be traced back to medieval times, making it one of the oldest Christmas traditions currently observed in Britain.
But it was among the upper classes of post-Reformation England that the Christmas pudding first started to become a fashionable Christmas day dessert, its thirteen ingredients representing Christ and his twelve Apostles. As a result, it comprised of what were considered luxury ingredients: fresh fruit, spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon, and set in alcohol to act as a humectant.
While the present day Christmas pudding is no longer centred around a display of wealth, the core principles remain the same. It is still composed of a diverse set of ingredients to create a powerful flavour, and the inclusion of sugar is pivotal to creating a sweet dessert and adds to this flavour.
As the taste of Christmas puddings is intended to be strong and rich, they are now generally aged in alcohol to increase the flavour complex rather than to prolong their edibility. This means they now have a range of different cooking times and can be cooked months in advance to help mature the flavour, or even as late as Christmas Eve for those with less time.
The result of this change in culinary preferences is that a variety of different sugars can be used in Christmas puddings recipes to give different results. So, we’ve provided below a recommendation of which sugars we would use in different Christmas pudding recipes to produce the optimal flavour combinations.
Nowadays, Christmas pudding recipes have a wide range of ingredients, and different sugars should be used in these recipes to provide distinct results.
The classic Christmas pudding
A traditional Christmas pudding is made months in advance from a mix of nutmeg and cinnamon, combined with dried currants, sultanas, raisins, orange zest and apple. Therefore, dark soft brown sugar is used to best complement this fruity flavour.
Dark soft brown sugar has a high cane molasses content, and this provides a rich toffee-like flavour, making it an ideal component for the traditional fruit-based Christmas pudding, with the dark colour of dark soft brown sugar helping to create the classic dark/red colour scheme.
Once ready, the pudding should be steamed for four hours, before the basin is taken out of the saucepan and wrapped in clingfilm and foil. From here, it can be given time to mature in a cool, dark place for several months in advance.
The quick Christmas pudding
Modern day working commitments do not always allow time to prepare a traditional Christmas pudding. So, as a quick and easy alternative, we recommend using mixed spices, mixed dried fruit and orange zest as the core ingredients. To complement this mix and the shorter time frame, use light cane muscovado sugar and golden syrup.
Sadly, the quick Christmas pudding recipe does not allow for enough cooking time to unlock the richer flavours of a dark cane muscovado sugar or a dark soft brown sugar. It is therefore better to use light cane muscovado sugar because it gives a more subtle toffee flavour to balance the quick steaming.
Golden syrup helps add further sucrose content to the dessert. Due to the lighter colour of the light cane muscovado sugar, this quick Christmas pudding will have a much lighter complexion than a traditional Christmas pudding.
This Christmas pudding should be steamed for an hour and a half on Christmas Eve, before the basin is wrapped in clingfilm and foil, and stored in a cool and dark place overnight, ready for an extra thirty minutes steaming the next day.
The luxury Christmas pudding
A so-called ‘luxury’ Christmas pudding uses the same ingredients as its traditional counterpart but enhances them with many more. In addition to the traditional ingredients, ginger stem, ginger slices, ground allspice and advocaat are often added. This is to create a much richer flavour than the traditional and quick recipes, which means that Eastick’s golden syrup, dark cane muscovado sugar and treacle no.2 make perfect ingredients.
Eastick’s golden syrup has the highest sugar content of all our golden syrups, so is best for building a sweet, luxury product. Dark cane muscovado sugar is the perfect match for a luxury Christmas pudding because it has a much richer flavour than most other crystallines, which serves to complement the ginger in this pudding. Treacle no.2 also has a strong flavour profile that adds to the rich, luxurious taste of this product, and is smoother than our other treacles, meaning its flavour is not overpowering.
This Christmas pudding should be steamed for four hours to fully develop its rich flavour and then the basin should be removed from the saucepan and wrapped in clingfilm and foil, where it can be given time to mature in a cool, dark place several months in advance.
Dark cane muscovado sugar is the perfect ingredient for a more luxurious Christmas pudding.
The extra fruity Christmas pudding
The final Christmas pudding option is extra fruity. We wouldn’t call it the extra fruity Christmas pudding without good reason, so this recipe includes sultanas, currants, cranberries, cherries, sloe gin, orange and lemon zest and apple, as well as nutmeg and mixed spices.
With such a fruity core to this pudding, the sugar ingredients need a strong profile. This means that we recommend using dark soft brown sugar and molasses. Dark soft brown sugar already has a high molasses content, but when combined with molasses the sugar flavour becomes strong and robust. This particular pudding is steamed for over five hours, with the viscosity of the molasses maintaining the sugar content in such a long cooking time.
Once the cooking time is completed, the basin should be taken out of the saucepan and wrapped in clingfilm and foil, where it can be given time to mature in a cool, dark place for several months in advance – doing so allows the molasses rich flavour profile to complement the sweetness of the additional fruit best.
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