Not another Christmas pud! There are plenty of other seasonal sweets with a festive flavour

The traditional version is not to everyone's taste, says Anthea Gerrie.

Blame it all on Heston. Ever since he decided to bury a whole candied orange instead of a threepenny bit in a Christmas pudding, we have gone mad inventing new ways to tweak the festive dessert with which we enjoy a love-hate relationship. We may still clamour for the chef du jour to bring out the figgy pudding, but we prefer it with a nice surprise and a bit of light relief.

"Cooks have to battle the 'ball of stodge' syndrome," says Tom Kerridge, of the Hand and Flowers, Britain's only two-Michelin-star pub. He felt obliged to pull a traditional pud off his set Christmas lunch three years ago when he found punters were ordering a different dessert à la carte rather than tackle a hot, starchy helping of rich, dark fruits bound with suet after their turkey and stuffing.

"I love traditional Christmas pudding myself, but I could see the need to lighten it up and give diners the flavour without the density," says Kerridge, who is now combining a faithfully stirred and steamed pudding with crème anglaise and churning it into a Christmas pudding ice-cream.

Cold is the coolest thing in desserts this Christmas. The Hand and Flowers festive ice is not a million miles away from the Christmas pudding gelato Jacob Kennedy, of Bocca di Lupo, has created for his Soho ice-cream parlour Gelupo. That is a limited edition of 250, just as Heston's Hidden Orange became a rare collectible in 2010. Not to be caught out, Waitrose has ordered 11 times as many for this third year of the orange, but eBayers are already asking £100 for its successor, Heston's new Hidden Sauce Figgy Pudding.

The fact that this last is an actual figgy pudding, albeit one oozing toffee, suggests many of us cling perversely to a compulsion to steam basinfuls of dense, warm, sweet and sticky pud on a day when mountains of other calorific offerings often make us disinclined to actually consume it after the festive bird. This perversity is a tradition many are reluctant to abandon. "It's all about nostalgia in this big year for Britain," says Will Torrent, a pastry chef who consults on dessert development for Waitrose.

He believes the sweet, stodgy stalwart of the festive season is not going to be chased away anytime soon in the rush towards lighter, brighter desserts: "Heston helped reinvigorate the traditional segment by adding a fun element to allay the 'Oh God, we've got Christmas pudding coming' syndrome," Torrent says. "He took those people on a journey and gave us room to create true alternatives for the many people who are not keen on that rich fruity texture."

Thus for traditionalists in search of a twist, the Hidden Orange has spawned the Hidden Clementine mini-me and Sainsbury's robust riposte, the Hidden Cherry Centre Christmas Pudding. Lighter alternatives include the cherry and almond pud with edible glitter from Waitrose and the panettone-based pudding from M&S. Not to mention a whole host of frozen desserts with no Christmas flavours at all, such as Heston's baked Alaska (blowtorch recommended to finish it, needless to say) and the non-Heston Salted Caramel Chocolate Bombe from Waitrose.

Salted caramel, which refuses to loosen its grip on the British palate, is also flavouring pudding cream at Sainsbury's this year, in a range that includes cherry-brandy and champagne-cocktail variations, and in the dairy aisle you'll even find a Christmas pudding-flavoured yogurt from The Collective (a probiotic, low-fat alternative to the real thing, a boon for those prone to indigestion).

Selfridges' key cold treat this year is Gelupo's mince-pie-and-mulled-wine-flavour gelato, while M&S has also looked towards Italy in a bid to tweak the Christmas pud: "Italian flavours have been a big trend this year, so we've combined panettone with traditional pudding ingredients to create a lighter texture," the dessert developer Helen Brennan says.

She might be surprised to learn that adding sugar, vanilla and spices to the golden crumb and steaming it is the last thing Italians do with their panettone at Christmas. Paola Pignataro, a Carluccio's buyer, says her kinfolk take a slice of the fruit-studded bread absolutely plain with a glass of Prosecco at the end of their festive feast. It leaves room for other treats: "In Italy the Christmas spread is all about abundance and enjoyment, so the selection could also include panforte," she says of the gorgeously sticky Tuscan confection of dried fruit and nuts compressed into a flat, hard cake.

Those of us who feel the traditional Victorian steamed fruit pudding is just too dense and heavy for contemporary tastes could take a leaf out of Italy's book by embracing a simple British seasonal taste tradition that also takes us back to earlier times. "Orange for me is one of the five essential flavours of Christmas," says Torrent, for whom the others are fragrant spices. "I've never got over visiting American friends who infused their living room with the scent of clove-studded oranges placed on the radiators."

It's a tradition that has driven Kerridge to bring to his own Christmas table this year a spiced orange cake inspired by his friend Lawrence Keogh at the Wolseley: "Combining the aromatic oils of orange with cinnamon and ginger gives off the pure smell of Christmas – and reminds me of the orange that used to be in my stocking as a child." His fragrant confection of clementines boiled, then seeded and blitzed with eggs, sugar, ground almonds and spices, certainly seems an enticingly light conclusion to a modern Christmas feast compared with a ball of traditional dark, dense stodge – even a ball of stodge with a candied orange at its centre.

AND FOR THE LEFTOVERS...

Simon King of Restaurant 1861 delighted visitors to this year's Abergavenny Christmas Food Fair by incorporating Christmas pudding into a soufflé and creating a Christmas pudding parfait served with cranberry sorbet.

Christmas pudding is also good sliced, fried in butter and served with thick, liqueur-flavoured cream.

Stale panettone makes the world's best bread-and-butter pudding – even more so if you use the booze-soaked variation known as drunken panettone.

CHOCOHOLICS' CORNER

Paul A Young's Christmas pudding-flavoured brownie is going head to head with Heston's new Chocolate Christmas Cake – a brownie disguised as an iced Christmas pudding. Young is also fielding a brownie-topped mince pie.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering