“It’s a funny thing about English diners. They’ll let you dazzle them with piddly duxelles of this and fussy little noisettes of that, but don’t f**k with their puddings, which is my thinking exactly. All the dessert entries were for gooey dishes with good English names.”
Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island (1995)
I like to bake but my dessert repertoire is, I’m sad to say, a little limited. One dessert item I have always wanted to have a go at making but never have is a favourite of mine that is indeed gooey (and stodgy, and sweet) and has a good English name: Sticky toffee pudding.
If I’m dining out and fancy going for a dessert item that doesn’t involve the cheeseboard (my usual option), then chances are I will opt for the sticky toffee pudding. Our local pub does a really good one!
Yesterday, Allison and I had some friends round for dinner and we decided that we would make sticky toffee pudding for the dessert. There are various different recipes out there, and we used one from the BBC’s Olive magazine which would apparently require “a little effort”. The main benefit of this particular recipe was that the pudding required baking rather than steaming, which I for one didn’t fancy doing. Plus, we had most of the ingredients already.
It required pitted dates (150g), butter (65g), dark brown sugar (175g), eggs (two) and self-raising flour (225g) for the sponge, and double cream (600ml), caster sugar (350g) and more butter (90g) for the toffee sauce.
The dates had to be simmered for 15 minutes first, during which I found out that the ones we have are not pitted. Pits removed, the dates were whizzed in the food-processor and left to cool while I made the sponge.
The recipe gave me the option of using a food processor for this too but I opted to do it by hand. Creaming the butter and the sugar was easy enough, as was adding the eggs and folding in the flour (“with a large metal spoon”), followed by the date purée.
Now for the baking tin. The recipe required a tin measuring “15x12cm (6cm deep)”, which we don’t actually own. A baking tin of slightly similar dimensions (longer but less wide) sufficed, and was duly greased and lined with greaseproof paper.
With the sponge in the oven (50-60 minutes at 180ºC), I got to work on the toffee sauce. This involved boiling half the cream with the butter and sugar for ten minutes, then whisking in the rest of the cream as it cooled. Quite frankly, the amount of toffee sauce that resulted looked like being way too much for our pudding.
Next came the tricky part as the newly-baked sponge had to be cut horizontally into four layers. It had also risen quite a bit and looked rather well-done on the top, so I took the opportunity to take the crispy bits off the top. This gave us the chance to sample the sponge and sauce combination. A couple of tastes were sufficient to convince both of us that we were onto a winner.
The layers of the sponge were reassembled in the tin, with sauce going between the layers so that the sponge could soak it up like, well, a sponge.
This much we did in advance. The final part, reheating the whole thing (15-20 minutes, same temperature as before), took place after the main course. It was served with extra sauce (there was too much) and ice cream.
Was it everything I’d wanted it to be? Yes. Was it delicious? Yes. Would I make it again? Absolutely!