Sticky Toffee Pudding
Traditionally, English puddings are steamed, but that is not the case with Sticky Toffee Pudding. In point of fact, the exact origin of this popular savory dessert is unknown. The earliest story hearkens back to the Second World War, when two Canadian Air Force officers who were lodging at a hotel in Lancashire shared the recipe with Mrs. Patricia Martin, the hotel’s manager. Decades later, she passed the recipe on to Francis Coulson and Robert Lee at Sharrow Bay Country House hotel. No matter when or where, Sticky Toffee Pudding remains one of the great favorites on any dessert menu.
For the Toffee Sauce you will need—
2 cups of heavy cream (not whipping cream)
½ cup light corn syrup
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter plus a tablespoon extra for the pan
For the Pudding you will need—
1 cup of pitted and chopped dates
1 cup of boiling water
1 cup of white all-purpose flour (whole wheat is too heavy)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark molasses
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat your oven in 350-degrees F.
2. Pour half the cream, corn syrup, and butter into a medium-size saucepan and cook on medium heat until it comes to a gentle boil. You do not need to stir constantly but you do need to stand over the saucepan and observe the old adage, “a watched pot never boils,” stirring so the thick creamy sauce bubbles but does not come to a rolling boil and stick to the bottom of the pan and, invariably, burn. You can use a wire whisk or wooden spoon. I actually prefer to use a pair of chopsticks—a tip I learned from following Julia Child. Remove the pot from heat, stir in the remaining cup of cream, and set aside.
3. Butter a 3-quart baking pan. Pour in half the sauce and gently shake the pan so the syrup covers the bottom consistently and completely. Then, put the pan in the refrigerator, uncovered, to chill.
4. Next, cover the dates in a medium-size bowl with the boiling water and allow the fruit to soften, about 10 minutes. Then, blend the dates and water in a food processor until it becomes a smooth paste.
5. In a separate bowl, blend the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
6. In the large bowl of a Kitchenaid mixmaster (or whatever brand you may have), beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and molasses and beat again, till blended. Then, fold in the eggs. Eggs are delicate things and when you over-beat them, you take away the air. This can result in a heavier cake, which is not what you want in a pudding (or any cake, for that matter.)
7. Now, remove the bowl from the mixmaster and add all the ingredients by hand, a little at a time, folding them in with a wooden spoon or spatula until fully combined.
8. Remove the baking pan from the refrigerator and pour the batter over the toffee sauce. Do not stir, but again, you can gently shake the batter to settle over the pan.
9. Bake for 25- to 30-minutes. Insert a toothpick to test for doneness. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, about 10 minutes.
Plate individually, in bowls or on dessert plates, and serve warm with cream, ice cream or my very favorite, Devonshire clotted cream, which you can find at many specialty grocery stores and online.