Global Goodies: International Holiday Desserts (Recipes)

Spice up your holiday table with an international dessert



In England, Christmas — or figgy — pudding is traditionally prepared about a month before Christmas

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Hark, what’s that you hear? It’s the sound of your sweet tooth gearing up for the annual holiday sugar-fest that many of us indulge in at this time of year. We all have our favorites — from traditional sugar cookies to rugalach to gingerbread galore. Because let’s face it, dessert is one of the highlights of the holidays. But there is always room to try something new (come on, undo that top button), and luckily, there are as many interesting international treats to choose from as there are countries to inspire you. Here, we outline some of the traditional holiday desserts from around the world, and fill you in on where to find them and how to make them.

Pudding Central: England

“No English person would have Christmas without Christmas pudding; it would be like having Thanksgiving without the turkey,” says Helen Wells, the owner of Jolly’s British Food & Good Grub Groceries in Saugerties. No doubt. While the ingredients — and even the name — can vary (it’s sometimes called plum pudding or figgy pudding), these steamed puddings have certain common characteristics, including a cake-like consistency, a dark color, and the fact that they are stuffed with dried fruits and spices. Brandy is also a common element in this type of dessert, which is traditionally made on the first Sunday in Advent but served on Christmas Day. 

At Jolly’s, you can buy a one-pound Christmas pudding for $26. The shop also sells Christmas cakes — a fruitcake with a marzipan covering and white icing on top — and mini mincemeat pies.

Chef Dieter Schorner of the Culinary Institute of America shares a recipe for figgy pudding:

Figgy Pudding

Serves 6 to 8

Special equipment: Pudding mold or molds and a steamer large enough to hold the molds

  • 1½ cups raisins
  • ¾ cup candied orange peel
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, sliced and chopped
  • 1 cup moist figs, smashed (dried ones soaked in hot milk for two hours will work. Once soft, drain them well before smashing.)
  • ¼ cup brandy, whiskey, or sherry
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda, sifted
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ¾ cup finely chopped white blanched almonds
  • ½ cup whole-wheat flour
  1. Soak fruit in brandy, whiskey, or sherry, and let stand for one day
  2. Butter molds and line with plastic wrap, leaving enough overhanging wrap to cover top of the pudding
  3. In large bowl, beat eggs and sugar together. Add oil or melted butter and remaining ingredients. Blend well. (Don’t forget to make a wish while blending!)
  4. Fill prepared molds, cover with wrap, and place in the steamer basket. Steam until firm, approximately 2½ to 3 hours for a large mold and 1½ to 1¾ hours for small, individual molds
  5. Pudding may be stored for one month in the refrigerator. Reheat by steaming for about 1¼ hours for a large mold or 15 to 20 minutes for small molds
  6. Serve with whipped cream

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