Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Three words which, on their own, are already the beginning of something pretty fantastic.  Put together, they make a dessert like no other.  Dark and moist sponge cake full of brown sugar and soft dates, sweet caramelly toffee sauce….  served with ice cream, of course.

I’ve wanted to try making sticky toffee pudding for a while and spent a few hours one day researching various recipes.  My research left me a little confused as there are so many schools of thought on the “correct” way to make the pudding.

And who am I to judge who’s right and who’s wrong?  I’m not an expert on English puddings, so as long as it tastes good, right?  Well, maybe.  I think that in some cases there definitely are ingredients and methods that can make or break the authenticity of a recipe.  Jamie and I make our own versions of curry dishes and other Ethnic cuisine based on what ingredients I can find and how much effort I feel like putting into the dish since some of those “authentic” recipes tend to be overly complicated and time-consuming.  And I’m sure that in the end, even while it tastes good, it may not be considered absolutely authentic.

But this is one of the fun things about cooking.  It doesn’t always have to be precise.  It doesn’t always have to be what someone else considers correct.  Sometimes, it’s just about making something homey and delicious and having fun while doing it.

Life has too many rules, anyway, so try breaking a few in the kitchen.  It’s fun and opens up new ways of cooking and baking that you may not have considered before.

Tired of wearing black, white, navy blue and gray to work (my winter “uniform” seems to be black leggings and boots, with a dress or skirt and top – although very conveniently, the leggings double as pajama bottoms when I get home), I was feeling rebellious against the rules of fashion the other morning, too, since we finally have a few days of relief from the single digit freezing cold temperatures we’ve experienced this past week.  So I put on a dark pink summer dress, thinking I could “winter it up” with a sweater and some brown boots.  And in spite of not wanting to adhere to the winter vs. summer clothes rules, it really was too summery, although it would have been appropriate for early fall or late spring but not dead of winter.  Soooooo, I changed into a black and white striped dress I’d forgotten I had, although of course that meant I also had to change my boots and sweater, and I ended up back in an all black/white outfit.  Well, I tried.

After all my ruminating over the rules of a proper sticky toffee pudding, in the end, I scrapped my research, including the recipe I had pieced together from about a hundred different variations and just used the recipe in a cookbook Jamie gave me.  Jamie actually made the dessert that Friday night – something he rarely does since he has more interest in tasting than baking – and I liked watching him mix up the batter, bake it in the ramekins and then make the toffee sauce.  We halved the recipe so we would only have 4 little servings, and the only thing I didn’t like about the recipe was that it’s not the simplest to cut in half with some of the measurements as there are a lot of “3/4” quantities, but again, it’s not a recipe that requires absolute precision, so it all worked out.

We ate the pudding warm from the oven, and with the hot toffee sauce and cool creamy ice cream, it was delectable.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
printable recipe

  • 1/4 cup pitted and finely chopped dates
  • rounded 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • heaping 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • rounded 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
toffee sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • heaping 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease 4 custard cups or small ramekins and place on a baking sheet.

In a small bowl, combine the dates, baking soda and boiling water.  Let stand for 10 minutes.

With an electric mixer beat the butter and brown sugar for 3-4 minutes.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Stir in the flour, baking powder, salt and date mixture until moistened.  Pour batter into the ramekins.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the brown sugar and cream.  Cook for about 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until sticky and syrupy.  Stir in the vanilla and salt.

To serve, invert the ramekins over a plate to unmold the warm pudding.  Spoon the sauce over the pudding and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Yields 4 servings

Recipe slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma Home Baked Comfort.