Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sticky. Toffee. Pudding.

Almost 20 years ago, I went on an inn-to-inn hike in England's Lake District with my husband Jim, our guide Alan, and six other people, four of whom became our friends when we returned to the States. It was a wonderful time, and although I had heard awful things about English food, it was quite good.

I especially loved the desserts, and of those desserts, I especially loved Sticky Toffee Pudding. It tasted like pure heaven: a dense, moist cake with a sauce like liquid pralines without nuts.

However, I hesitated to make it at home. I loved my memory of it and was afraid my efforts (I'm not much of a baker) wouldn't come close to the joy I felt digging into that dessert in those cozy English inns.

I shouldn't have waited so long.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
(adapted from Gourmet, December 1993)

2 2/3 cups water
2 tea bags
2 cups pitted dates
3/4 stick butter, softened
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
For the sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick butter
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Lyle's Golden Syrup

Make the pudding: Butter and flour six 1-cup ramekins. In a small saucepan, bring the water to boil, add the teabags and steep for 4 minutes. Remove the teabags, add the dates and bring to a boil again. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Using a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well. Add the vanilla and the flour, and mix thoroughly.
In a food processor, purée the date mixture with the baking soda, add it to the other mixture and stir until just combined.
Divide the mixture among the ramekins and bake the puddings on a baking sheet in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let the puddings cool in their dishes for about 10 minutes, run a sharp knife around the edge of each ramekin and invert on a dessert plate. Top with the following sauce and serve.

In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring. Boil the sauce for 2-3 minutes until it thickens slightly. It will thicken more as it cools.