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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Have you ever tasted something that was so delicious beyond comprehension that it made you want to cry?  That's what Sticky Toffee Pudding does to me.  I find the deep, dark, seductive flavors of caramelized sugar and molasses to be entirely irresistible.  Just one bite of the warm, dark, moist, rich pudding (cake) causes sparks to start firing, yet ground me deep into the earth.  Yeah, it's like that.

The thing about my lust-affair is, I only had my first bite of Sticky Toffee Pudding a little over a year ago.  It's not that I hadn't heard of it before.  It was one of those things I'd been "meaning to" try for years.  I mean, come on - I love me some Jamie and some Nigella!  This British-born treat was definitely on my radar.  I can't help but love the Queen's English (I am using that term correctly, aren't I?).  Pudding actually refers to any dessert.  And, I believe that "our" (here in the U.S.) puddings are referred to as custards over there.  You may remember my penchant for the word porridge.  Well, pudding falls into that same category for me.  As does tin (instead of the word can used most often in the States).

Sticky Toffee Pudding at Bushmill's Inn in Ireland
Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding from the Bushmill's Inn Restaurant in Co. Antrim, N. Ireland
But, I digress.  Sticky Toffee Pudding.  My first actual bite was when I was in Northern Ireland last September.  As soon as I saw it on the menu, I jumped at the chance to finally try it.  I was at The Bushmills Inn Restaurant, and after a day of fresh air at The Giant's Causeway, touring a whiskey distillery, and enjoying a Bushmills whiskey tasting - I was ready to tuck in to a fantastic meal.  I know the whole thing was amazing, but all I remember is the Sticky Toffee Pudding.

I've thought about it often, but haven't had another bite since.  I don't know why I've put off making it myself.  Probably because after making it once, there will be no going back.  I'll want to make it all the time.  And that, is a deliciously dangerous prospect.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
I started collecting recipes and methods a while ago in anticipation of making a batch of this traditionally steamed pudding.  I think what surprised me most, was the use of dates.  When I tasted it, I didn't realize that it was largely the use of dates that led to the moist and sticky texture.  They sort of step back and let the treacle and golden syrup shine.  Another thing that I wasn't expecting was the use of baking soda.  I may not have (but probably should have) guessed that the slightly alkaline trace that runs through the pudding comes from baking soda that's been pureed into the soaked dates.

My first bite of homemade Sticky Toffee Pudding was as much of a revelation as my first bite of any Sticky Toffee Pudding.  It's life-changing.  And yes, it made me want to cry.

Sticky Toffee Pudding w/ Toffee Sauce
Deep, dark, moist and rich sticky toffee pudding.
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Sticky Toffee Pudding

by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Keywords: bake dessert dates pudding cake British

Ingredients (serves 8-10)

    for the sticky toffee pudding:
    • 8 oz. pitted dates, roughly chopped
    • 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) boiling water
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 2 cups cake flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temp
    • 1 cup dark brown sugar
    • 2 eggs, at room temperature
    • 2 tablespoons black treacle or dark molasses
    • 1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    for the toffee sauce:
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
    • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces) heavy cream
    • 1 tablespoon black treacle or dark molasses
    • big pinch sea salt
    In a bowl, cover dates with boiling water. Let sit 10 minutes. Transfer dates and water to food processor with baking soda and process until smooth.

    Preheat oven to 375° F. Put a pot of water on to boil. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together; set aside.

    Butter a 9" square (or 12"x6") pan, and dust with flour (or line with parchment). In a bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter with sugar until combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add treacle, Golden Syrup and vanilla. Mix until just combined. On low speed, add the reserved flour mixture.

    In a food processor, puree the dates and water. Stir in the baking soda and stir the mixture into the batter thoroughly. Pour into the prepared pan. Set the pan into a roasting pan, set on the center rack of the oven, and then carefully pour the boiling water into the roasting pan, about halfway up the pan holding the batter. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until top is just set and edges have released from the side of the pan (baking time largely depends on the size/shape of the pan you use). Remove from oven, and cool slightly on a wire rack.

    While it's cooling, place all the ingredients for the toffee sauce into a medium-sized pan and bring to a boil (watch it, so that it doesn't boil over); reduce heat and simmer until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

    Serve warm with a warm slice of the pudding/cake. If you like, serve a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or a blop of whipped cream alongside.

    •        If you like, stir in a big splash of Brandy and/or vanilla after removing the toffee sauce from the heat.
    Sticky Toffee Pudding

    Sticky Toffee Pudding