It’s my first Australian Christmas, and it’s just not right. Don’t get me wrong, I love the carols in the park, the barbeques in the garden, the outdoor parties at friends’ houses. But where are the cosy evenings in front of the fire drinking mulled wine and eating warm mince pies? Where are the carol singers at your door in scarves and hats and with red noses and frosty breath?
I would usually moan about the dark, cold days of a European December, but as we all know we often don’t realise that we would miss something until we don’t have it any more!
One thing that Australians do have on Christmas Day in common with the English, I’m happy to report, is a lovely rich, alcohol-soaked Christmas pudding (aka plum pudding) for dessert. Now I realise that many readers may have absolutely no idea what this is, so just to enlighten you it’s an extremely gooey, heavy, almost-black-in-colour traditional Christmas dessert laden with a ridiculous amount of dried fruits, spices and nuts. It’s mixed and steamed in a bowl as early as October and then on the day it’s turned out upside down onto a plate, a sprig of holly is put on the top and alcohol (usually brandy) is poured all over it. It’s then lit and taken to the table on fire and everyone goes ‘Oooooh!’ It doesn’t matter that you’re already stuffed up to your eye-balls with turkey and cranberry sauce, you just have to make space for a spoonful of Christmas pud smothered in brandy butter or a custard-y brandy sauce.
For anyone who’s interested, I just had a little search around to find out the history of this ‘love-it-or-hate-it-but-got-to-have-it-on-the-Christmas-table’ English tradition and apparently it dates back as early as 1430 or even earlier! At that time it was a sort of (I have to say very yucky-sounding) porridge containing beef, mutton, raisins, prunes, wines and spices and was made simply as a way of preserving meat. It became a customary Christmas dessert by about 1650 after King George I requested plum pudding as part of his Christmas feast. By Victorian times, a Christmas pudding with blue flames licking around it had morphed into the version we know today and become the centrepiece of an Englishman’s Christmas dinner. And so it remains!
Now that I’ve gone to great lengths to enlighten those of you who don’t know about Christmas ‘puds’, errm, I’m not going to tell you how to make one … ohhh nooo. Not because I like to be a big tease but … well, check out the list of ingredients in these things! Plus … well, it’s a bit late now!
But what I DO have for you today are some cute little mini Christmas pudding truffles. A lovely friend of mine told me yesterday that she always takes a plate of these along to any Christmas function she’s invited to and everyone loves them. She explained to me exactly how to make them, I logged all the info in my head … and here we are! Believe me, they are much much simpler than making a Christmas pud! And a lot cuter, too.
I reckon you really needed to know the background of Christmas puddings before making these tasty truffles if you don’t happen to be from the UK or Australia. Imagine how proud you’ll feel when you can impress all your friends with the story (and history!) of what they represent.
Serves: about 50 truffles
- 1 dark or light store-bought fruit cake (I used an 800g dark fruit cake). If you can get hold of a Christmas pudding, you can use that instead.
- a drizzle or two of rum or brandy, according to taste!
- about 400g good quality milk or dark chocolate
- about 50-70g white chocolate
- green and red sweets/candies (I used jelly snakes!)
- Crumble the cake into a large bowl, pour in a few drizzles of alcohol and then gather the crumbs together to form a ball. Refrigerate for at least half an hour.
- Melt the milk or dark chocolate in a small bowl, either by placing it over a saucepan of simmering water or in a microwave (I melted mine in the microwave, but for 20 or 30 seconds at a time as it's relatively easy to 'burn' the chocolate while melting it this way).
- Take small walnut-sized pieces of the cake mixture and roll them into a ball. Do this quite quickly as the dough is easier to work with when it's cold.
- Using a cocktail stick, fork or something similar (I used a kebab stick!), dip the balls into the chocolate. I found it worked best to dip each ball so that ¾ of the ball was covered in chocolate, then I quickly turned it over and put it onto a plate so that the chocolate ran down the truffle and covered most of the rest.
- Let the chocolate on the truffles set.
- Meanwhile, slice the red and green jelly sweets/candies into tiny pieces to vaguely resemble berry and leaf shapes (see notes for more details).
- Melt the white chocolate, then drizzle a small teaspoonful over the top so that it looks like custard or sauce.
- Before the white chocolate sets, place a few tiny pieces of red candy and two longer pieces of green candy on the top of each truffle.
For my 'berries', I just cut tiny tiny pieces of red jelly candy off a jelly snake and put 2 or 3 on each truffle. For the 'leaves', I cut slightly longer, thinner pieces to roughly look like leaves. Again, this doesn't need to be all that precise, in my humble opinion. You just want to create the effect of holly leaves and berries.
Have any of you who aren’t English (or Aussie!) ever tried Christmas pudding and if so what did you think? What do you usually have for Christmas dinner dessert?