This may be the BEST Gluten Free Christmas Pudding… EVER! De-glutened and adapted from a recipe for figgy pudding which is over 40 years old, it is rich, yet light, packed with fruit, super-moist and perfectly boozy. Suet free and optional dairy free.
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Puds Might Fly – The story behind my Gluten Free Christmas Pudding
This may just be the ULTIMATE Gluten Free Christmas Pudding. Why? Because in my humble opinion, it originates from the BEST ordinary Christmas Pudding recipe I ever ate. The recipe itself is at least 40 years old. It was one that my mother cooked and became an annual Christmas ritual… No other Christmas Pudding would do. Why? Because this particular Christmas Pudding was lighter, fruitier and without doubt, more succulent and moist than any we had had previously.
The original recipe was from the Sunday Times magazine and was titled ‘Puds Might Fly’. Specifically, the pre-recipe blurb stated “… Light Christmas Pudding designed to banish the post-prandial stupor that follows the original…”. And they were right. Because this particular seasonal treat can be eaten after the turkey and trimmings without feeling ‘too much’.
It’s taken me a long time to get here… But I’ve finally taken the time to make the recipe gluten free and to enhance its fruity perfection with a couple of minor amendments. And since no British Christmas is complete without Christmas Pudding, I have also decided to share this most amazing recipe from my heritage with you too. After all, gluten free or not, EVERYONE deserves the best at Christmas. And as with all the recipes at Gluten Free Alchemist… there are no compromises on taste, texture or enjoyment.
What goes into a Traditional English Christmas Pudding (AKA Figgy Pudding)?
The very English Christmas Pudding (with its literary preservation through the novel ‘A Christmas Carol‘ (Charles Dickens)) is somewhat unique. Also known as ‘Figgy Pudding’ (although it doesn’t actually contain figs), it is rich and complex in flavour. Traditionally eaten on Christmas Day, a little goes a long way. Essentially, it’s a dark and quite dense sponge made with dried fruit, peel, citrus and spices.
Actually (according to historians), traditional Christmas Pudding should contain 13 specific ingredients to represent Jesus and his 12 disciples. Those ingredients include currants, raisins, orange peel, lemon peel, lemon juice, suet, brown sugar, breadcrumbs, flour, eggs, milk, spices and Brandy.
But the way it is cooked also matters… It is (and should be) packed into a pudding basin and steamed until done (usually over a few hours).
Does my Gluten Free Christmas Pudding differ from tradition?
Not really… no. My gluten free recipe for Christmas Pudding follows tradition pretty closely, even with its 21st century and gluten free tweaks. This is what I changed from the original recipe…
- No suet, which isn’t a bad thing in my book. I’ve never been a great fan of suet and when I de-gluten recipes, usually avoid it where at all possible.
- Added glacé cherries and chopped dates – For flavour, stickiness and interest.
- No flour – Ground almonds are used instead for structure, texture and flavour.
- Gluten Free Breadcrumbs – for obvious reasons
Can Christmas Pudding (gluten free or otherwise) be made ahead of time?
Absolutely. Yes. In fact, a Christmas Pudding should definitely be made in advance. If you try to eat Christmas Pudding too soon after cooking, it will likely collapse, as it has not had time to mature and settle either in texture or flavour.
And with that requirement, there is a traditional day in the pre-advent calendar when Christmas Pudding is made… It’s known as Stir-up Sunday, and is the last Sunday before advent at the end of November. But of course… Stir-up Sunday has its rituals too…
Traditionally, Christmas pudding batter is stirred by each family member (while making a wish), in remembrance of the Wise Men who visited Jesus in the Nativity scene. And additionally, lucky charms or coins (historically a silver sixpence) are mixed into the batter to be found when eating on Christmas Day. Obviously broken teeth were historically more acceptable…
There is the option (as with Christmas Cake) to ‘feed’ Christmas Pudding with extra booze in the run up to Christmas… But that is entirely up to you… We do! Because we can. But it isn’t really essential.
Why do we traditionally set fire to Christmas Pudding?
Which brings us to another rather flamboyant tradition… Setting fire to (or flaming) the Christmas Pudding using brandy. Always dramatic and exciting and honestly, a lot safer than it looks. But why do we do it?
Well… According to those historians (again), it is said that pouring flaming brandy over the pud represents the Passion of Christ. And while the holly on top may seem like mere festive acknowledgement, some suggest that that too holds meaning… Representing the Crown of Thorns. Just bear in mind that holly is not something that should be eaten (and is pretty poisonous should you do so). As such, it’s a good idea to just lay it on the top (in pursuit of tradition), and to remove before your gluten free Christmas Pudding is either flamed or eaten.
How to cook your gluten free Christmas Pudding
As mentioned, a traditional Figgy Pudding is a steamed pudding that is cooked in a pudding bowl or pudding basin. The recipe offered in this post makes two almost 1 pint (500 ml) Christmas Puddings or one larger 1¾ pint (1 litre). I have always cooked steamed puddings in ceramic pudding bowls, which are easy to buy on Amazon.
Once the pudding mixture is ready, it should be transferred to the well-buttered pudding basin(s) and packed down tightly by pushing with the back of a spoon to compress. It is then ready to be ‘trussed up’ and cooked. To do this, you’ll need:
- Non-stick baking parchment/greaseproof paper
- Aluminium foil
- A large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid (or a steamer)
Now… I’ll be honest, I’m not great on explaining technical process and usually turn to Google for instructions on stuff like “How to Steam a Pudding”. So, for the detail (unless you already have the know-how and confidence), click on the link for full instructions on covering, tying and steaming the pudding.
How do you flame a Christmas Pudding?
Flaming a Christmas Pudding (gluten free or not) is pretty straight forward. But if you’re worried the pudding might be incinerated in the process… panic not! The flame you see is not because the pudding (or even the brandy) is on fire… It is in fact, the evaporating alcohol vapour from the the brandy that is burning.
Here’s how to make the magic happen…
- Make sure your gluten free Christmas Pudding has been turned out onto a solid serving plate that has a rimmed edge to contain any ‘excess’ brandy.
- The brandy (or any other spirit that might be used) must be heated before it is lit. This is because you need to create vapour to ignite. The easiest way to do this is to heat some brandy, whisky or rum (3 to 4 tablespoons should be fine) in a small saucepan first…
- Once the booze is hot, pour it into a metal ladle (both for ease of lighting and pouring).
- While the liquor is still hot, tilt the ladle slightly over a gas flame (or use a match or lighter) to ignite the vapour.
- Immediately and carefully pour over the Christmas Pudding and watch in awe.
- Wait for the flames to go out before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions about a Gluten Free Christmas Pudding recipe…
These are the most frequently asked questions about making a traditional Gluten Free Christmas Pudding. Hopefully, any queries you have are covered. But if there are other questions, feel free to contact me by comment below or email and I will do my best to help.
Is this Christmas Pudding Recipe safe for people with Coeliac Disease (Celiac Disease)?
Yes. Providing you make my Christmas Pudding using gluten free bread, then it is absolutely safe for people with Coeliac Disease (Celiac Disease). Apart from the bread, there are no other gluten-containing ingredients in the recipe.
As with all gluten free baking however, be sure to check packaging ingredient lists for any potential hidden gluten and ‘may contain’ warnings (possibly as a result of manufacturing processes).
What’s the point of making a Gluten Free Christmas Pudding?
For anyone who thinks there is no point in ‘wasting’ time making Christmas Pudding when they are available in supermarkets ready-made, let me challenge you a little… There are many reasons why making your own gluten free Christmas Pudding is more than worth the effort…
- I can guarantee that your home-made Christmas Pudding will taste better, be fruitier, more moist and WAY more delicious than ANYTHING you will find in the supermarket.
- You get to choose what fruit goes in it and what stays out! If you aren’t much of a raisin-lover, switch out or reduce the raisin content for something you prefer… Maybe dried apricots or blueberries?
- This one’s suet-free too!
- The gluten free Christmas Pudding made at home is big enough to share… There’s no ‘being left out’ with your own single-sized microwavable plastic pot… This is a family dessert. And since it tastes (in my opinion) better than even the wheat versions I had in my pre-gluten days, no one will complain.
- It’s tradition and actually lots of fun to make figgy pudding at home!
- While I haven’t actually worked it out penny for penny and size for size, making a gluten free Christmas Pudding is definitely cheaper than buying one.
Can I make this Gluten Free Christmas Pudding dairy free?
Yes! As long as you use dairy free breadcrumbs, the only dairy ingredients in my gluten free Christmas Pudding recipe are butter and a drop of milk. Both can be easily subbed for dairy free alternatives. I recommend using a good dairy free block butter such as Stork or Flora Baking Blocks.
Can I make this Gluten Free Christmas Pudding alcohol free?
Yes! While it’s usual in a traditional Christmas Pudding to add alcohol (most often in the form of brandy, whisky or rum), it’s fine to make it alcohol-free. Simply switch the brandy in the mix for the same quantity of apple or orange juice. And skip the flaming!
Can I make this Gluten Free Christmas Pudding Vegan?
I won’t lie… I’m not sure on this one. It’s not something I’ve tried. But… Given the balance of other ingredients, I suspect this is one of those rare recipes that is possible to switch the hen eggs for flax eggs with straight success. It’s not something I would normally suggest, but I’d definitely give it a go if I needed to. If you do try it, let me know what happens.
What are the best breadcrumbs for this Gluten Free Christmas Pudding recipe?
The breadcrumbs are an important ingredient in any Christmas Pudding Recipe. But we all know that gluten free bread (and therefore breadcrumbs) can be a bit hit and miss, particularly when it comes to how moist or dry the texture. Not to put too finer point on it… If you use breadcrumbs from a loaf that is mouth-achingly dry, the texture of your Gluten Free Christmas Pudding will be affected. It will suck the moisture out of everything else and likely result in something that doesn’t hold together well and is (like the bread) disappointingly dry.
The original ‘Puds Might Fly’ recipe specified using very fresh brown breadcrumbs (no crusts). As such I recommend sticking to that requirement. If you opt to use shop-bought bread, pick a good brown loaf that is not too dry… And possibly add an extra 2 to 3 tsp of water or lemon juice to the mix.
I’ll be honest… I’ve pretty much given up on most commercial loaves as they are so gross… But based on memory, the Genius or Promise brown loaves, or even the Sainsbury’s ones aren’t too bad for moisture. Absolutely don’t use the Warburton’s big loaves. They are way too dry for this recipe.
Which bread did I use?
I used my homemade Gluten Free Wholemeal… It was absolutely perfect! And can be made with or without dairy! For the best Gluten Free Christmas Pudding results, use either the hand-baked wholemeal or the bread-maker wholemeal versions. Here’s the link for my full instructions to make Gluten Free Fresh Bread Crumbs.
How should Christmas Pudding be served?
Beyond the flaming, there are a number of options for how a Christmas Pudding might be served… But remember, a little goes a long way. Here’s a few traditional and favourite options to serve with:
- A spoon of Brandy Butter. Found in the supermarket chiller at Christmas.
- Clotted cream; extra thick cream; or coconut whipped cream
- Drizzled with pouring cream (double or single)
- Slathered with custard
- Topped with a good vanilla ice cream or even a little easy homemade Baileys Ice Cream
Ready to make Gluten Free Christmas Pudding?
Hopefully that’s enough to get you going. I really hope you love this gluten free Christmas Pudding as much as we do. If you make it, do remember to come back and tell me how you found it. Leave a comment, rate the recipe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, tag me on social media with those pudding pics… flaming or not! It’s easiest to track me down on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest.
And if you’re looking for lots more Christmas inspiration, we have a dedicated Gluten Free Christmas Recipe Index here at Gluten Free Alchemist. Perfect for all your Christmas baking needs. For everything else, our main on-line ‘Recipe Book’ Index should help you navigate round the blog. All our 400+ recipes are shared on the site for FREE! So, enjoy with my love.
Other fabulous Christmas desserts you’ll love
Gluten Free Christmas Pudding
- Pudding basin(s) – two almost 1 pint (500 ml) or one larger 1¾ pint (1 litre).
- kitchen foil
- large saucepan with lid
- 150 g flame raisins
- 150 g sultanas
- 50 g Italian mixed peel
- 100 g glacé cherries quartered
- 50 g dates chopped
- 4 tbsp rum warmed (or sub with apple/orange juice for an alcohol free pudding)
- 85 g ground almonds (almond meal)
- 100 g fresh brown breadcrumbs (gluten free) freshly ground from good quality bread – crusts removed – See NOTES
- 130 g soft dark brown sugar
- pinch fine sea salt
- ⅓ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp mixed spice
- 85 g unsalted butter softened (or dairy free block alternative)
- 1 lemon zest and juice
- 1 orange zest only
- 2 large eggs At room temperature – UK large (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’)
- 3 tbsp brandy (or sub with apple/orange juice for an alcohol free pudding)
- 1 tbsp milk or dairy free alternative
- Additional brandy/rum/whisky to 'feed' optional
Soaking the fruit ahead of time
- Weigh the raisins, sultanas, peel, cherries and dates into a bowl and add the warmed rum.
- Stir well and leave to soak and hydrate for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.
Making the Christmas Pudding batter
- Prepare the pudding basin(s) by generously rubbing butter (or dairy free spread) onto the inside surface. Set aside. See NOTES for sizing.
- In a large bowl, weigh and mix together the almonds, fresh breadcrumbs, sugar, salt and spices.
- Add the soaked fruit (including any remaining liquid) and softened butter and mix through with hands or a firm spoon until even.
- Add the lemon and orange zest and juice and stir well.
- In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, brandy and milk so that they are well combined.
- Add the egg mixture to the rest of the batter mix and stir well.
- Get everyone in the family to stir the pudding batter for luck while they make a wish.
- Transfer the batter to the pudding basin(s) and pack down firmly with the back of a spoon to compress.
Covering the pudding with baking paper and foil to protect while steaming
- Take a large sheet of baking paper and a sheet of aluminium foil about the same size (both big enough to very excessively fit over the pudding basin).
- Make a pleat in the centre of each (by folding a double crease) and then place the foil on top of the baking paper (pleats aligned).
- Lay across the top of the pudding bowl (foil on top of the baking paper) with the pleat central over the bowl. This will allow for any expansion in the pudding when it cooks.
- Press the foil and baking paper down around the outside of the pudding basin.
- Using the natural ridge on the outside of the pudding basin, tie a very large piece of string as tightly as possible to secure the coverings in place and to create a seal. Tie the string round 2 to 3 times for strength.
- Lift the skirt of the foil so that you can see the baking paper underneath and trim the baking paper to about an excess of 2 inches round the sides of the bowl.
- Trim any excess foil so that it is still a couple of inches longer than the paper. Then tuck the paper in and fold the foil under it, rolling upwards and inwards to encase the paper and provide a water-tight seal.
- Now make a string handle by threading another piece of string through the side string and across the top of the pudding basin. Thread back and forth 2 to 3 times for strength.
Steaming the pudding
- Place a saucer upside-down in the bottom of a large saucepan (that fits the pudding basin comfortably with room around the side). Make sure to use a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.
- Carefully lower the pudding basin into the saucepan and place on top of the saucer.
- Pour boiling water into the saucepan, to a level half-way up the basin.
- Bring to the boil on the hob and then turn down to just a simmer, placing the lid tightly onto the saucepan to seal.
- Steam the pudding for 4 hours, checking intermittently and topping back up with boiling water to half way as required. DO NOT let the water drop below a quarter level or to boil dry.
- Once cooked, lift the pudding from the pan and cool completely. Do not remove the paper or foil.
- Once cold, set aside in a cool, dark cupboard and leave for at least 4 weeks to mature. (If you want to check the pudding before storing, it's fine to lift the covering, but be sure to replace afterward).
- OPTIONAL: Feed the pudding every 10 to 14 days (about 2 to 3 times in the month) with a little brandy/amaretto/whisky/rum. Skewer a few holes into the surface and drizzle or 'inject' the booze into the sponge. Re-cover when finished.
- The Christmas Pudding can be stored potentially for many months if required (particularly if it has been fed with additional booze).
- When ready to eat, remove the foil and place a saucer or clingfilm over the top, before heating in a microwave for about 3 minutes on high. Make sure the pudding is piping hot before flaming (optional) and serving. If you don't have a microwave, re-steam on the day (as above) for 1 hour.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist
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