Friday, February 24, 2012

Sticky toffee pudding

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Couple of weeks ago I entered a phase of heavy craving for dates. It's hard to explain, but I just can't help eating them. Some days - for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Weird, but those dates which look the most messy and jammed, as if a bear stepped on them, seem to be the tastiest. Anyhow, that day I woke up determined to make a proper sticky toffee pudding - soft and moist with gooey butterscotch sauce and melting ice-cream on top. Another idea was to give a class at Pinch about it, it didn't work. But the pudding itself! I can't find words strong enough to describe its beauty.

We started making sticky toffee pudding from time to time couple of years ago though in Moscow most of people haven't even heard about it. It is also the case with many other kinds of British and American pastry. For some reason Moscow is mostly occupied by French bakeries, so everybody responds well to croissants, profiteroles, puff pastries etc.

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Only American cheesecake really has strong presence. Carrot cake, chocolate chip cookies and muffins became known quite recently, when Starbucks took off here. Cupcakes are now getting some traction thanks to new great American bakeries - Upside down cake and I love cake. With them crumbles, pies etc. start getting some exposure.

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Having said all that, sticky toffee pudding is still not here to the best of my knowledge. It is also to my surprise given how great it tastes, how easy it is to make and how well it stores. There are delicious and extremely fast short cut versions, like this spicy hot cake. I do love those, but this time I felt like a full blown one.

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I do follow the Joy of cooking for making it almost exactly. Somehow it produces the best sticky toffee pudding I ever tried. It comes out very soft and very moist. The sweetness is well balanced between the pudding itself and the toffee sauce. It holds shape well and almost doesn't crumble. And it doesn't go stale for a week or more. Both the pudding and the butterscotch (toffee) sauce can be made well in advance and then reheat beautifully. Nothing complicated.

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Sticky toffee pudding (adapted from the Joy of cooking)

serves 8

200 g pitted dates, coarsely chopped
375 ml of water
1 heaped tea spoon of baking soda
250 g all purpose flour
1 tea spoon baking powder
250 g light brown sugar
90 g butter, softened
3 large or 4 small eggs
1.5 tea spoon vanilla
To serve: butterscotch sauce (recipe below) and vanilla ice-cream (1-2 scoops per serving)

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In a small saucepan combine the dates and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the soda. It will actively bubble, that's OK. Set aside.

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In a small bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder.

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In a large bowl cream butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture beating on low speed just until mixed. Stir in the date mixture until just combined.

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Slightly oil a 6 by 22 cm loaf pan and line the bottom with baking paper.

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Pour in the batter and bake at 180C for around 1 hour 10 minutes till a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pudding comes out moist but clean.

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Take out of the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and invert on a cutting board or serving dish. Let cool to warm or cool completely and cut into 8 thick slices across. Serve warm (you might need to reheat it in which case microwave works best) with warm butterscotch sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Butterscotch sauce (adapted from the Joy of cooking)

110 g butter
60 g water
2 table spoons light honey or corn syrup
200 g white sugar
125 ml cream 33-35% (slightly heated)
1 tea spoon vanilla (optional)
1/8 tea spoon salt

In a medium saucepan combine butter, water and honey. Cook on low heat stirring till the butter is melted and everything is combined. Add sugar and stir till combined. 

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Stop stirring. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 8 - 10 minutes or more till the mixture turns golden brown.

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Remove from heat. Slowly pour in the cream, rotating the pan or whisking. Stir till smooth. If the sauce goes lumpy, heat stirring over low heat till it is smooth. Stir in vanilla and salt.

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Let cool to warm or cool completely, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in the microwave before serving.

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