Over the years, my boys have been resistant to any dessert that didn’t start with Chocolate Chip Cookie. I have tried a plethora of different cookies here and there, but I always end up making CCC’s. Pies? The only pie they really like is chocolate pie, go figure. Cake? Try chocolate. Sensing a theme here?
Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate. I think it’s devine, like most other warm blooded girls. But I do get a little bored with it. I like variety, and I’m not picky much about dessert.
When I went to Scotland two years ago, I wanted to try all the different foods there–yes even Haggis, and Black Pudding. While I truly believe that my hangup with Haggis and Black Pudding was mental, I couldn’t honestly say that I thought the flavor was bad but merely the thought of what went into the making of them that convinced me I couldn’t, or wouldn’t like them.
When it came to desserts however, Sticky Toffee Pudding won hands down. Once I had it, I couldn’t stop eating it. And when we hit Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, I bought a cookbook with the recipe for it so I could have it at home.
Alas, when I made it at home, it wasn’t the same. It didn’t have the same rich flavor that I remembered from my trip, and I was truly disappointed. I tried a couple of times, but each time they were a disappointment, and I finally gave up.
Then last weekend a friend invited me to a cooking demonstration by one of the local specialty cookware shops in town, and one of the things she used was fresh dates. Being the one key ingredient in Sticky Toffee Pudding, my interest was renewed, and I came home and combed the internet for better recipes. And I think I’ve figured out a couple of places I went wrong, and found two recipes that I used to come up with something closer to what I had in Scotland.
And the boys? They fell madly in love with it. No one requested chocolate chip cookies, and it was gone before I could take any pictures. I think I can consider this a success.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
So one of the things I did wrong, although I’ve seen several recipes that say it’s O.K., is to use dried dates. That’s what I used, and they didn’t really break up, and became identifiable lumps in the cake, and you really don’t want that. Really fresh, good quality medjool dates are what one should use, IMHO. I also ended up pureeing mine in the blender, but I don’t think you really have to. I also weighed them, as the recipes quoted measured amount, along with weight, but I think next time I will finely chop them, and measure instead, because it felt slightly skimpy on the date flavor.
The next thing that seems pretty firm is the use of brown sugar instead of white sugar for the sauce. I seemed to have better luck caramelizing white sugar, as when I used brown sugar, it was grainy and not at all like that which I had in Scotland. I can only assume I’m doing something wrong when using brown sugar.
I’ve included the recipe I used below. The cake recipe comes from Hunter’s Head Tavern in Upperville, Virginia, the sauce from Rachel Ray.
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1.5 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chopped pitted dates
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 6 cup bundt pan or 8 one cup ramekins. Bring dates and 1 1/4 cups water to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan with tall sides. Remove from heat; stir i baking soda (mixture will become foamy). Set aside; let cool.
Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat 1/4 cup butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend (mixture will be grainy). Add 1 egg; beat to blend. Add half of flour mixture and half of date mixture; beat to blend. Repeat with remaining 1 egg, flour mixture, and date mixture. Pour batter into mold or divide evenly between ramekins.
Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes for bunt pan, and 30 minutes for ramekins. Let cool for 20 minutes (we unmolded and ate immediately 🙂 ) and remove from pans.
Place 2 cups sugar in heavy pan with 6 tablespoons of water. Heat to boiling and let boil undisturbed for 5-8 minutes, or until it becomes amber in color. Remove from heat and stir in 4 tablespoons of butter at room temperature, and then whisk in 1 1/3 cup of heavy cream, also at room temperature. Remove from heat once combined and smooth, and stir in a pinch of salt.
Serve by spooning sauce onto a plate, put slice of cake on sauce, then ladle more sauce on top. Top with whipped cream or ice-cream.