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Julia Child's Plum Pudding for Christmas

Servings: 12 or more
From Julia Child's book, The Way To Cook, here is Julia's rendition of the traditional Plum Pudding for Christmas. She gives us lots of helpful tips and notes about how the pudding should be made and cooked, such as the steaming procedure, and even how to microwave the pudding. Delicious!!

For about 6 cups baked in an 8-cup mold

For The Pudding Mixture:
3 cups (lightly packed down) crumbs from homemade type white bread ( 1/2 lb. loaf with crust on will do it)
1 cup each: black raisins, yellow raisins, and currants, chopped
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. each: cinnamon, mace, and nutmeg--more if needed
8 oz. (2 sticks) butter, melted
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
A few drops of almond extract
1/2 cup bitter orange marmalade
1/2 cup rum or bourbon whiskey, heated before serving
Sprigs of holly (optional)

For The Zabaglione Sauce:
(Makes about 2 cups sauce)
1 large egg
2 egg yolks
Small pinch of salt
1/3 cup rum or bourbon whiskey (or Marsala or Sherry wine)
1/3 cup Dry White French Vermouth
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Special Equipment Suggested:
1) A food processor is useful for making the bread crumbs and chopping the raisins
2) An 8-cup pudding container, such as a round bottomed metal mixing bowl or an 8-cup pudding mold with lid
3) A cover for the bowl (mold)
4) A steamer basket or trivet
5) A roomy soup kettle with tight-fitting cover to hold bowl, cover, and basket

Like a good fruitcake, a plum pudding develops its full flavor when made at least a week ahead. Count on 6 hours for the initial, almost unattended steaming, and 2 hours to reheat before serving.

The Pudding Mixture:
Toss the bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl with the raisins, sugar and spices. Then toss with the melted butter, and finally with the rest of the ingredients, except, of course, the Holly and Zabaglione Sauce. Taste carefully for seasoning, adding more spices if needed.

To Microwave Plum Pudding:
Butter the dish you are cooking the pudding in, then cover the bottom of the dish with a buttered piece of wax paper. Pour in batter. Cover dish with plastic wrap and pierce the plastic with a knife in several places. Cook at "defrost" (low speed) for 30 minutes. If your microwave oven does not have a carousel which turns the dish during cooking, stop the process several times during the cooking and rotate the dish manually. Finally, cook at 5 minutes on "bake" (high speed). Let the pudding set for a few minutes before unmolding. The pudding is ready when it is firm to the touch. The microwaved plum pudding is somewhat paler than its steamed counterpart.

To Steam A Plum Pudding:
Use a special pan made for this purpose. You must have a container with a very tight lid on it which will stay sealed throughout the cooking.

Steaming-Takes About 6 Hours:
Pack the pudding mixture into the container (pudding mold); cover with a round of wax paper and the lid. Set the container on the steaming basket or trivet in the kettle, and add enough water to come a third of the way up the sides of the container. Cover the kettle tightly; bring to the simmer, and let steam about 6 hours.

Check the kettle now and then to be sure the water hasn't boiled off!

When Is The Pudding Done?:
When it is a dark walnut-brown color and fairly firm to the touch.

Curing And Storing.
Let the pudding cool in its container. Store it in a cool wine cellar, or in the refrigerator. Ahead -of-time note: Pudding will keep nicely for several months.

A good 2 hours before you plan to serve, resteam the pudding-it must be quite warm indeed for successful flaming. Unmold onto a hot serving platter and decorate, if you wish, with sprigs of holly.

Flaming and Serving:
Pour the hot rum or whiskey around the pudding. Either ignite it in the kitchen and rapidly bring it forth, or flame it at the table. Serve the following Zabaglione Sauce separately.

Zabaglione Sauce:
Whisk all the ingredients together for 1 minute in a stainless saucepan. Then whisk over moderately low heat for 4 to 5 minutes, until the sauce becomes thick, foamy, and warm to your finger. Do not bring it to the simmer and scramble the eggs, but you must heat it enough for it to thicken. Serve warm or cold.

Ahead Of Time Note:
The sauce will remain foamy for 20 to 30 minutes, and if it separates simply beat it briefly over heat. If you wish to reform the sauce, whisk in a stiffly beaten egg white.

Source: Adapted from: The Way to Cook, by Julia Child (copyright 1989 by Knopf).

Date: November 17, 2002