Dried pears and fresh cranberries star in this steamed pudding. English cooks stir their Christmas puddings clockwise for good luck. While our pudding's recipe is hardly traditional, it certainly could do no harm to stir in one direction only.
Coat a 2-quart pudding mold with cooking spray. (Alternatively, use a deep 2-quart bowl and a sheet of foil for the lid.)
Place pears in a small saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand until softened, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pears to a food processor with a slotted spoon. Add 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid and puree until smooth.
Whisk together the pear puree, buttermilk, egg whites, lemon zest and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Stir together chopped cranberries, raisins, flour, breadcrumbs, sugar, ginger, baking soda, allspice and salt in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir just until combined.
Arrange almonds and whole cranberries in a decorative fashion in the bottom of the prepared mold or bowl. Gently spoon a little batter into the bottom of the mold to cover the garnish, then add the remaining batter. Cover tightly with lid or foil, securing foil with string or masking tape. Set on a trivet or rack in a pot tall enough to hold the mold comfortably. Add hot water to come halfway up the sides of the mold. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover the pot and steam for 1 1/2 hours. (Add more water to maintain level, if necessary.)
Remove the mold from the pot and let stand on a towel for 10 minutes. Unmold. Serve warm, with Brandy Custard Sauce, if desired.
Brandy Custard Sauce
1 fruit, 3 other carbohydrates