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Saltspring's Chef Bruce Wood

Chef Bruce Wood of Bruce's Kitchen on Salt Spring Island has lots of great tips for making fruitcake and steamed pudding, just in time for Christmas. 

He also has a great suggestion for toasting slices of fruitcake...and for using hard sauce and custard sauce together on top of pudding.  Now why didn't I think of that before?

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Individual Plum Puddings with rum sauce
Tradition has it that everyone should take a turn stirring the puddings when making them.
1 tbsp. butter
3 ½ cups breadcrumbs
2 cups raisins
1 ¾ cup dried cranberries
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder mixed with 1/2tsp. baking soda
1/3 pound beef suet, grated
2/3 cups porter style beer
½ cup mixed peel
¼ cup slivered almonds
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp. ground allspice
½ tsp. salt
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 granny smith, peeled and grated
juice and zest of one orange

    Grease 2 6 cup pudding moulds
    In a large bowl combine everything and stir well. Divide between the pudding moulds and pat down well to remove any air pockets.
    Cover the ramekins with two layers of waxed paper and two layers of tinfoil and tie down with string. Place the basins on a rack in a deep pot and add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
    Cover and bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium low and maintain a simmer. Steam for five hours.
    Remove from the pan, cool slightly (10 minutes) and remove the foil and paper. Remove puddings from ramekins and serve warm with the rum sauce.

Rum sauce :

2" piece vanilla bean
2 oz. dark rum
250 ml. Homogenized milk -or egg nog
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp. All purpose flour

In a saucepan heat the milk, rum and vanilla bean. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and flour. Pour the hot milk over the egg yolks and stir well.
Return to the heat and cook stirring constantly until the mixture begins to bubble gently and thicken this should take about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat strain, cool and refrigerate until needed.

Hard sauce:
1/3cup  cane sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup dark rum

Beat butter with icing sugar until fluffy. Beat in 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the rum; set aside. In small saucepan, warm remaining rum over medium heat; drizzle over hot puddings and light with long match, jiggling platters to keep flame lit. When flame dies, serve with hard sauce.

Dark Christmas Cake
I am not a fine of the rich icing that covers most Christmas cake. I like to arrange blanched, skinned almonds decoratively on top of the cake.

2 cups currants
2 cups mixed candied peel
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped candied pineapple
 1-1/2 cups red candied cherries, halved
1-1/2 cups seeded raisins
1 cup brandy
2 cups all purpose flour
 2 tsp  baking powder
1/2 tsp  baking soda
1/4 tsp  ground allspice
 1/4 tsp  ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 pinch salt
 3/4 cup  butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup strawberry jam
2 tbsp fancy molasses
5 large eggs
1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts


In large bowl, combine currants, mixed peel, pineapple, cherries, raisins and 3/4 cup (175 mL) of the brandy; cover and let stand for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
Line base and sides of 13- x 9-inch (3.5 L) metal cake pan with double thickness parchment paper. Set aside.
In bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt ; remove 1/2 cup (125 mL) and toss with fruit mixture.
In separate bowl, beat together butter, sugar, jam and molasses until fluffy; beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Stir in remaining flour mixture all at once just until incorporated. Add fruit mixture and walnuts; stir to combine. Scrape into prepared pan, smoothing top.
Set shallow pan on bottom rack of 300°F (150°C) oven; pour in enough water to come halfway up sides of pan. Bake cake on centre rack for 1 hour. Lay foil loosely over cake; bake until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean but a little sticky, 45 to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on rack.
Remove cake from pan; peel off paper. Soak double-thickness 16-inch (40 cm) square of cheesecloth in remaining brandy; wrap around cake. Wrap in plastic wrap then foil. Refrigerate for 1 month. (you can make the fruitcake up to 3 months ahead keep refrigerated)
Cut crosswise into 6 bars.

From Chef Bruce Wood of Bruce's Kitchen on Salt Spring Island.

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