These carol-inspired foods will have holiday songs stuck in your head all day
"There'll be parties for hosting / Marshmallows for toasting ..." ("It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" by Edward Pola and George Wyle.)
"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire / Jack Frost nipping at your nose ..." ("The Christmas Song" by Bob Wells and Mel Torme)
"Oh, bring us a figgy pudding / Oh, bring us a figgy pudding / Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer ..." ("We Wish You a Merry Christmas," popular English carol)
Ahh, the many foods of the season celebrated in song. Marshmallows and roasted chestnuts — common enough; but what exactly is figgy pudding? The staff of the features department took time out of their busy holiday baking schedules to recreate some of the delights we sing about.
This recipe doesn't tell you to do it, but after you score your chestnuts, you should let them sit in hot water for a few minutes. The water gets inside the shell and the steam will help them pop open later. I was conservative with my scoring, and I paid for it later in the shelling. Really feel free to get in there with your knife, it will make your life easier in the long run. These are best served warm and have a chewy texture. — Meggie Baker, calendar editor
(Recipe from Ina Garten)
Yield: 20 to 40 marshmallows
Making marshmallows wasn't hard at all, although very sticky. You "blossom" unflavored gelatin in the bowl of a stand mixer, make a sugar syrup, drizzle the syrup into the gelatin and let the mixer do its thing for 12 to 15 minutes. The tricky part is getting the gooey marshmallow out of the bowl and into the prepared pan — work quickly. In retrospect, I would line the pan with parchment paper and then sprinkle it with confectioner's sugar before pouring in the marshmallow. I found a serrated bread knife the most effective in cutting the marshmallow into squares Also, use a really good vanilla, imitation just won't do. The homemade version is not as sweet as your store-bought brand and the vanilla really comes through. — Margaret Button, associate feature editor
- 3 packages unflavored gelatin
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup.
- Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
- Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.
- With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes.
- Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.
- With a sieve, generously dust an 8 by 12-inch nonmetal baking dish with powdered sugar.
- Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and dust with more confectioners' sugar.
- Allow to stand uncovered overnight until it dries out.
- Turn the marshmallows onto a board and cut them in squares. Dust them with more powdered sugar.
(Recipe courtesy of Sarah Zorn)
But really, what the heck is figgy pudding? Basically, at least with this recipe, it's a very moist cake filled with figs. Warning: If you don't like figs or the strong smell of figs, skip this recipe. (I learned my husband didn't like the smell of figs quickly when he opened the door to our home and yelled: "What is THAT SMELL?" Also, when you blend the figs and the soaking liquid, the mixture is pretty thick and not what I would consider "smooth." It still worked out fine. Co-workers couldn't get enough of this treat, which really had a great Christmas taste and could be easily eaten by just picking up chunks of it. It's perfect for a holiday gathering. But really prepare your Bundt pan for a sticky mess; the cake does not come out easily.
— Lindsey Hollenbaugh, managing editor of features
Total: 2 hr 45 min (includes chilling time) Active: 20 min
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, plus more for greasing
- 1 cup boiling water, plus more as needed
- 3 tablespoons brandy
- 1 pound dried figs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease an 11-cup Bundt pan.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Continue cooking until the butter turns golden brown, then transfer to a heatproof container and refrigerate until solid, about 1 hour.
- In a medium bowl, pour the boiling water and brandy over the figs and soak until softened, about 30 minutes. Coarsely chop 1/2 cup of the figs, and set aside. Place the remaining figs and the soaking liquid in a food processor and puree until smooth.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the chilled brown butter (you may have to microwave for 15 seconds to easily get the chilled brown butter out of the container) with the sugar and beat until combined.
- Add the eggs one at a time, and mix until combined.
- Add the fig puree, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, and beat on low speed until smooth.
- Stir in the chopped figs.
- Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan, then cover tightly with foil.
- Place the Bunt pan in a 12-by-17-inch deep roasting pan and set on the bottom rack of the oven.
- Pour 2 inches of boiling water around Bundt pan, then cover entire roasting pan with foil.
- Bake until the pudding is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
- Cool the pudding for 10 minutes, then invert the Bundt pan over a plate to unmold the pudding. Don't worry, this will be a little messy.
- Sprinkle the pudding with powdered sugar, which hides all the imperfections, and cut into slices.
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