Thursday, 9 May 2013
Sarah, one of my best friends from university, moved back to Scotland when she finished her degree. It's really quite inconvenient.
A few weeks ago I flew up to Edinburgh for a long weekend. On the Friday night, we headed out for dinner at the Scran & Scallie, Tom Kitchin & Dominic Jack's new restaurant. We had a very enjoyable (though maybe a touch over-seasoned) meal and finished it off with 'Alison Jack's Syrup Sponge' (in a fit of curiosity I asked them about Alison Jack's connection to the sponge on twitter - no reply so far, though I presume she is part of Dominic's family).
We shared the pudding - a little round ceramic dish with a thin layer of hot cake soaked from the bottom up in golden syrup with a rich scoop of vanilla ice cream melting languidly into the sponge - and then walked round and round the park, catching up.
As she was driving down with her family last weekend to graduate (Oxford has - of course - got a weird and delayed system for graduations), Sarah made me promise that I'd make syrup sponge for her when she came to stay.
Usually syrup sponges are steamed but as our pudding was baked, I went for that (it's also much faster and less fiddly). Essentially, this is a thin layer of all-in-one brown sugar sponge cloaking a lake of golden syrup.
To create the individual portions we were served, I tried baking it in small ramekins. I didn't get the sponge/syrup ratio or portion size right the first time. The second time I was making it for post-graduation brunch as there was no other time I could make the sponge for Sarah. I didn't know exactly how many people were going to turn up (family plans, hangovers...) so I decided to make it in a bigger dish and slice it up just before serving. Either option works, though with a bigger dish you avoid the hazard of serving piping hot ramekins.
Before you ask, I don't think there is a substitute for golden syrup in this recipe - just like treacle tart, it's the whole point. Also, please don't ignore the salt - you need it to balance out the sweetness (just like salted caramel).
As it cools, the sponge soaks up syrupy sauce, so for pudding it's best to eat it while it's still hot. When it gets cold it's a treacle-tart-cake cross, which is really quite delightful (and perhaps easier to understand for those who haven't grown up with treacle tart).
It's worth keeping in mind that the point of this pudding is that it's sweet - sweeter than I'd normally go for, but that's the pleasure of it. I now serve little squares - six per batch - but you could do four, or even fewer. I find 1/6 with ice cream just right - it leaves me feeling satisfied but not stuffed or woozy. It would be easy to scale this recipe up for a crowd - I can imagine serving it at a big party from a roasting tray. You can also serve it with a few berries, now summer is coming. I had some strawberries on hand when I made this yesterday, which gave a juicy colour contrast. I think some tart raspberries would pair well too.
It was surprisingly emotional watching my friends graduate (and scary to think that mine was a year ago and that it's two years since I was slaving away for finals). The next morning, we had our brunch. We had a plaited milk loaf (from Scandilicious Baking) with lots of different spreads, croissants and pain au chocolat from the bakery, chunky slices of bacon, feta & spring onion frittata (from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook) and lots and lots of tea. Then I served up slices of hot syrup sponge with a big, melting scoop of ice cream. The room fell silent for a minute.
Sarah gave it her approval.
Sarah's Syrup Sponge
3 generous tbsp golden syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature*
50g plain flour
40g light brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 pinches of salt
Preheat the oven to 160C/320F. Spoon the golden syrup into the bottom of a dish (roughly 7x5"/18x13cm) or 4-6 ramekins (about 3"/7cm) and let it spread out. Lightly beat the egg and vanilla together. Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a electric hand whisk) and beat for a minute to soften. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl then add the egg mixture and beat just until combined. Spoon the batter over the syrup then spread it out into an even layer. Bake for around 25 minutes for one sponge and around 10-15 minutes for ramekins - the sponge should have risen and set, turned golden brown and you should be able to remove a toothpick cleanly. Slice and serve straight away with vanilla ice cream (let the ramekins cool a bit - the heat in the ramekin will keep the syrup at the bottom very hot at first) and possibly some fruit.
* You can also use salted butter and not add the pinches of salt.
Three more recipes that use golden syrup:
Salted Caramel Brownies