Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The New [Favorite] Kid in Town: Sticky Toffee Pudding

When it comes to desserts, I do play favorites. I have my favorite cookie, favorite cake, pie, pudding, ice cream, etc. –sometimes even becoming more specific like: favorite chocolate chip cookie, favorite carrot cake, favorite sherbet flavor. Perhaps this rating system seems a bit all-inclusive. But there are just too many varying types, tastes and techniques to each dessert category. There can’t be just one that ‘takes the cake’.
Today marked the day of yet another dessert category creation. You won’t see this “pudding” in a Jello box, and though it’s been labeled a cake, it’s so moist and spongy you almost wonder if it’s not half-baked. The category is obviously ambiguous. I might settle for “favorite toffee dessert”?
In one bewitching bite the dessert is already entreating you “Make me your favorite! Pretty please, with buttery toffee sauce and a date on top!” How can you say no? You don’t. You surrender yourself to the warm, gooey pudding-cake. Waving the white flag never seemed so appropriate.

This recipe fell into my hands from a well-connected friend in the restaurant business, but I made a few alterations necessary to relate back to being a college student. Granted, it’s not easy-bake brownies, but the prep and cook work are comparable. Although the ingredients don’t come from a plastic package, the richness and depth of sweet buttery flavor are going to blow the minds of your typical brownie-baked audience. At first glance, the reddish, brown dates might seem like overgrown raisins,but they are much meatier and apt for dessert pairings. Fresh dates come from a date palm, though I used dried and sweetened ones you could pick up from a grocery. Their most valuable contribution was the texture they added to the dessert. I wouldn’t recommend the substitution of raisins unless the raisins were first soaked for at least 30 minutes to plump up. Best served warm and paired with vanilla bean ice cream, this dessert is bound to make it into at least one of your “favorite dessert” categories.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 pkg [8-12 oz] dried, sweetened dates
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup water
1 ½ cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups self-rising flour
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup golden Karo syrup
½ cup heavy whipping cream
Vanilla ice cream, to serve
1. Preheat oven to 350˚ F.
2. Grease and flour a 13x9 pan.
3. Place dates and water into small pan. Bring to a boil, simmer for about 2 min. Remove from heat and add baking soda. Stir until mixture stops foaming.
4. Cream together 1 stick of butter and sugar. Add vanilla.
5. Gradually add eggs. Beat well after adding each.
6. Fold in flour with spoon.
7. Fold in date mixture.
8. Pour into greased pan. Place in a larger [preferably somewhat deep] pan filled with about 1 in boiling water.
9. Bake for at least 30 min, until well risen and firm. [I cooked mine for about 40-45 min, but I was using a friend’s shifty oven]. Allow to cool for about 5-10 min, as it is best hot.
10. Meanwhile, make toffee sauce by adding remaining stick of butter, brown sugar and Karo to small sauce pan.
11. Bring to simmer and cook for about 2-3 min, until thickened. Stir in cream and allow to bubble down, then remove from heat.
To serve, cut squares of the pudding, scoop of ice cream, drizzle toffee sauce over all. Consume and enjoy!

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