This Is One of Martha's Favorite Gifts to Give for the Holidays
As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Living, we look back to some of Martha's favorite holiday traditions: hosting an afternoon brunch, caroling with friends and neighbors, personalizing everyone's stocking for the mantel, and so much more. Come Christmastime, Martha is busy in the kitchen baking what everyone in her inner circle knows to be one of her favorite homemade gifts—Kris Kringle bread pudding.
"The tradition of homemade gifts began in earnest for me when I was a child, cooking by my mother's side in our busy kitchen in Nutley, New Jersey," recalled Martha in her column for the December 2005 issue of Living. "We baked fruitcakes we knew our relatives would savor, and we made dozens and dozens of cookies and packed them in tins for all of our friends, understanding that they would be enjoyed by their families sometime during the holidays." To this day, Martha has continued the tradition of baking, then packing and wrapping. She varies the baked good from year to year but, nevertheless, it's becomes a meaningful gift for her colleagues, friends, and family members. In the past, she's made plum puddings and hard sauce, fruitcakes, and bread puddings with sour lemon sauce, and she's given out baskets full of jars of homemade jams and jellies, and homegrown honey—most of which are made from the homegrown bounty on her Bedford farm.
But Kris Kringle pudding is something supremely different altogether. "Topped with a sour lemon sauce adapted from my mother’s recipe," as Martha described it, "this light and fluffy pudding is flecked with orange zest and studded with dried fruits, including prunes and apricots." She starts by ordering dozens of loaves from Balthazar Bakery in New York City and, once prepped, packages each pudding with heating instructions and serving suggestions for the recipient. "I love this recipe because the pudding is actually very light and fluffy, not heavy and sodden," she further explained. "I think that this is the case because the brioche, after soaking up all the heavy cream, half-and-half, and egg yolks, puffs up during steaming, lightening in texture and expanding in volume extravagantly within the confines of the bowl."
As part of the presentation, she likes to make personal visits during the holidays to bring homemade gifts. "If you package all of your creations in collectible containers," she suggested, "make the recipients aware of the maker, the origin, and the nature of the vessels." For her Kris Kringle bread pudding, she used stoneware bowls that were hand-thrown by Maine potter Charles Grosjean of Hog Bay Pottery and paired with half-pint Ball jars ($11 for 12, target.com) of freshly-made sour lemon sauce, which is the perfect cold topping for such a warm dessert. Each cellophane-wrapped pudding is adorned with a custom gift tag designed with the iconic sycamore symbol of the farm, which was commissioned by engraving artist Michael McCurdy). It's a beautiful way to support local artisans and, in turn, produce a gift that someone will cherish.