Now I love figs. I never had them that often growing up but as an adult I love them so much. I also love their double season availability. They have a short season end of May and June and then come back for August through October so you can easily enjoy them without over doing it. Recently they have been everywhere so I have been fortunate to have them in my kitchen but they also tend to go soft pretty fast so it's good to have a plan to make or bake something with them to make them last longer. That's where a nice figgy pudding comes in.
Growing up I always knew about figgy pudding from the Christmas carol, but what exactly is it? The term pudding originally had a very different meaning. The first puddings were actually similar to sausage. It was a way to preserve meat in the stomach of an animal, often mixed with dried fruit. Over time different recipes came out and the term pudding started to also carry over to cake like sweets that were boiled. I know that sounds weird but I have done a boiled pudding before and it's actually really good. It's not full submerged but typically a bready mixture that is placed in a pan. That pan is then placed in boiling water and steamed to cook. This creates a super moist cake that doesn't have the toasted maillard flavor of modern cakes. By the 19th century in England, puddings were synonymous with these boiled cakes and the older savory connotations had mostly disappeared. This lead to modern figgy pudding that actually barely even has figs but rather used dates for a lot of moisture and sweetness. But I had figs and I wanted figgy pudding. So with the figs aging fast in the fridge and with a craving for a nice figgy pudding with a caramel sauce on my mind the past few weeks, I knew what I should make.
Since I had a lot of figs I knew I needed to change my recipes a bit. I also didn't want it to be super sweet and have a lot of sugar (trying to make things a little healthier) so I needed to sub the dates for more figs and reduce the sugar. I also wanted a nice caramel sauce for the top but again not wanting a lot of sugar in the final dish I thought instead of dates in the pudding let's make a date "caramel". I've seen many vegan recipes for date caramel where you just puree dates with some water for consistency and salt for flavor. But to me I wanted an actual caramel flavor. and dates have a lot of sugar so why not caramelize them a little to get that flavor? So I decided to roast the dates while the pudding baked to get them a little warm and toasty and get a richer flavor. And let me tell you it was such a good choice.
Now if you don't have fresh figs you can still make this recipe with dried, you'll just have to hydrated them to get more moisture. To do this simply cover them with boiling water and let them sit for 30-60 minutes. Once plumped, drain the water, puree the figs and add fresh water to achieve a consistency similar to apple butter, thicker but still soft. You can also sub some figs for dates if you want a more traditional flavor and more sweetness but if you want a good figgy flavor go for all figs. Check out the recipe below!
Fresh Figgy Pudding with Date Caramel Sauce
1 lbs. Figs, fresh
100g Unsalted Butter, softened
200g Granulated Sugar
2 ea. Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
340g All Purpose Flour**
3 ½ tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Salt
Puree the figs into a smooth paste.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time followed by vanilla. Scrape often.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a clean bowl.
Add fig puree to egg mixture and beat slightly then add flour and fold in by hand until fully combined.
Spread into a greased cupcake pan or mini loaf pan. You can also bake in a bunt pan but allow for a longer bake time, approx 40-45 minutes.
Bake at 350℉ for about 25-30 min. Cakes should be golden and spring back when pressed.
** Traditionally a lot of English baking uses self rising flour. Sub AP flour for self rising and remove the baking powder and salt from the recipe. Increase flour by 5 grams extra flour to account for the changes as well.
Date Caramel Sauce:
2 handfuls Pitted Dates
Roast the dates with a little oil in a 350℉ oven for 10 minutes until dates start to caramelize.
Place into a food processor and turn into a paste. Add a pinch of salt and water as needed to smooth into a caramel sauce. Mixture will have pieces of date but this adds a nice texture to the final sauce.
Although this recipe is synonymous with the holidays it is a great recipe to enjoy especially when figs are in season. Try it out yourself and let me know what you think! Feel free to add other spices to bring even more flavors to the table. Of course similar to cinnamon you can go nutmeg, clove, ginger, allspice, etc. but next time I think I'll try a little floral flavor like lavender which goes great with figs! Especially if you make this earlier in the year with the first figs of the season a nice floral undertone would be a great addition to this recipe!
As for the plating I did in the pictures since it's a very monotone color I wanted to show off the texture and make the eye move a little more. I placed a spoonful of date caramel on a white place and spread it with a mini offset spatula. Then I broke the cake up into smaller bits and garnished with some fresh carnation petals! The flowers add a little additional color to the plate that makes it stand out a little better.