There are certain things in life that we expect to hate but end up loving. Take fruitcake, for example. Dense, heavy, chunky… not how most people would describe something delicious, right? All that’s needed sometimes is a new perspective. When life hands you fruitcake (or at least the ingredients), make Christmas Pudding Bonbons.
For the full recipe and nutritional information, click here or continue reading!
The original idea for this recipe came from Nigella Lawson’s Christmas Puddini Bonbons; however, in my several years of making these, virtually none of the original ingredients remain. She uses leftover Christmas pudding which, besides not being vegan, is not practical price-wise here in the States. I transformed this idea into a date-cashew Lärabar-type filling, flavored with spices and booze, and covered in chocolate. This recipe is a further elaboration on that, substituting the cashews for creamy-sweet chestnuts and the addition of fruitcake-style mixed fruit. They’re sweet and spiced and tangy with a snappy coating of dark and white chocolate and a simple icing holly on top. It’s a long process but I promise none of the steps (apart from one) is very difficult. Let’s get started!
First off, the chestnuts. This was my first (and possibly my last) attempt at roasting chestnuts. Unless you have experience in chestnut-ing, I would strongly suggest using package chestnuts or simply swapping them out for raw cashews. For me, it was just too much of a pain in the butt. I didn’t use high-quality chestnuts (apparently), my knives weren’t sharp enough to score the shells properly, I wasn’t fast enough in peeling them while hot, and so on and so on. Save yourself the trouble and find another way.
One thing I would say is that you do want them to be pretty soft. Whether using fresh-roasted or prepackaged chestnuts, if you find them to be much any harder than a cooked chickpea, put them in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with water, and microwave until the correct tenderness. Drain off the excess water. I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re using cashews, though. Just keep them the way they are.
Put the chestnuts or cashews in a food processor along with the spices and alcohol of your choice. You can sub the booze for a bit of rum extract, but I would recommend adding some kind of alcohol (i.e, standard extract rather than alcohol-free) to help preserve the bonbons. Process the chestnuts until they are almost a smooth, hummus-like consistency. If using cashews, just process them until they are a coarse meal.
Now add the fruit. I’ve used just dates in the past (you want to use the whole, softer medjool dates rather than the chopped or whole from the baking aisle), and that’s great, but adding the fruitcake-style mixed fruit to the dates takes this to another level. There are the pretty colors, of course, but also a tangy bite that works so well with the rich chocolate and creamy chestnuts. You can add any soft-ish dried fruit you’d like: cherries, cranberries, or prunes would all be great.
Process your fruit with the nuts until it’s all finely chopped and beginning to form a ball. Smoosh it all into a bowl, cover, and chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, preferably overnight.
When you’re ready to roll your mix into balls, like a baking tray that will fit in your freezer with parchment or wax paper. You may wish to wear disposable gloves when rolling as the mix is on the sticky side, but I don’t really bother. The size you make your balls is up to you, but I do a scant teaspoon, or just under a 1″ diameter. Once your tray is filled, freeze the balls for a good couple of hours or until solid, then transfer to a freezer bag. In this state, they should last a good couple of months in the freezer.
Chocolate time! A good quality dark chocolate is best, around 60%-70% cocoa. I like to use chocolate chips because they melt quickly and evenly. Tempering your chocolate will give you the prettiest results (here’s a great resource for how to temper chocolate without a thermometer), but for an easier and more realistic Christmas pudding texture, just melt your chips however you see fit. While your chocolate is melting, line a baking tray with wax or parchment paper and pop it in the freezer to chill.
This is the trickiest part of the whole recipe, but I think these steps will help you accomplish it smoothly. Take the chocolate off the heat and place the bowl on your work surface. Take a few of your frozen bonbon centers out of the freezer at a time. Dip a fork in the melted chocolate. Rest one center on the tines of the fork above the chocolate. Using a spoon, coat the center with chocolate and tap the fork on the edge of the bowl to remove the excess. Gently push the bonbon off the fork with the spoon and onto the frozen tray. Repeat until all centers have been coated in chocolate and continue with more frozen centers.
By the time you’re done with all of them, most of them should be pretty much set. If you feel that you absolutely must put them in the fridge to set, do so, but I’ve found that it really isn’t necessary. As the chocolate cools and the centers defrost, you may find them starting to sweat. This is normal; just allow the condensation to completely evaporate before continuing to the next step. You can also dust them with cocoa powder at this point for a more realistic look, but I usually don’t.
Vegan white chocolate is not easy to find. You can certainly make your own, or you can buy it online. Last year I bought a few packages of these King David white chocolate chips, so that’s what I’m going with. We just need to melt a couple of ounces, plus about a half a teaspoon of coconut oil (virgin or refined) to thin it out so it can drip down the sides of our puddings. Don’t put too much oil, though; we still want the chocolate to set.
All that’s left now is the holly on top. If you are lucky enough to find some pre-made holly decorations that are the right size, go for it, remembering to stick them on while the white chocolate is still wet. If you’re not that lucky (like me), you’ll be left to your own decorating skills and use icing. It’s literally just a tiny amount of powdered sugar and food coloring drops (if using gel, you may need a drop or two of water as well).
And there you have ’em! They’re so cute and the flavor does not disappoint. They’re not super high in fat either as chestnuts are one of the lowest-in-fat nuts there is. They make amazing gifts that everyone will love, too! I would recommend keeping them in an airtight container in the fridge, but they will last at least a couple of weeks at room temperature, too. Please let me know if you try them and what you think. Enjoy!
Christmas Pudding Bonbons | Printable Version
Makes 90 bonbons
Prep Time: 2 hours
Freeze Time: 2 hours
2 lbs whole chestnuts (or 1½ lbs packaged), roasted and/or steamed until tender
1 lb medjool dates, pitted
1 c fruitcake-style mixed fruit
2 T sherry or brandy
¼ t vanilla bean paste or extract
½ t ground cinnamon
¼ t ground clove
¼ t ground nutmeg
¼ t ground ginger
32 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate, chips or chopped
8 oz white chocolate, chips or chopped
1 T coconut oil
1 c powdered sugar, divided
Red and green food coloring
- Process the chestnuts until almost a smooth, hummus-like consistency. Add the next eight ingredients and process until well amalgamated and begins to form a ball.
- Using scant teaspoonfuls, roll filling into 1” balls and place on a lined tray. Freeze until solid.
- Melt dark chocolate and dip centers, placing back on the tray to set.
- Combine white chocolate and coconut oil and melt. Drip onto bonbons.
- Combine ½ c powdered sugar with each of the food colorings (adding water, one drop at a time, if necessary) to form a thick icing. Decorate bonbons with a holly design.