Friday, 31 January 2014

Sticky Toffee Pudding



My final Pudding Month recipe had to be sticky toffee pudding.

When I was in the Lake District last year I made it my mission to eat as much sticky toffee pudding as possible. For research purposes, of course.



Though sticky toffee feels like one of those dishes that has been around forever, it was actually created in the early 1970s in the Lake District. Francis Coulson opened the Sharrow Bay Hotel on Ullswater in 1948 and is generally credited with the invention (though, as always, theories abound).

Four years ago I made some Sticky Toffee Volcanoes, little individual portions that had a gingery butterscotch sauce. They were good at the time but I knew I could improve on them now. I also wanted to make one big pudding - a slab that you can cut the portion of your choice from (and can have seconds from, if desired...).



I found a really interesting method on Not Without Salt for a salted caramel date loaf that involves making a deep bronze caramel, stirring in butter, boiling water and dates, then leaving it to cool into a delicious caramel-date slush before adding the final ingredients and baking.

The dates seem to permeate the whole pudding in a way they don't with the traditional method unless it's blended, when you don't get the lovely chunks of date you do here. The slightly smoky caramel creates a great flavour base that's more complex than just brown sugar. It's not quite as dark as some sticky toffee sponges - it's a brighter, rusty, autumnal brown.



My other contentious choice is to use baking powder instead of bicarbonate of soda. One of my biggest pet hates is the taste of bicarb coming through in a dish and I've had several sticky toffees when eating out that were ruined by it. I didn't see why I needed to use it instead of baking powder so I swapped.

I also salted the sauce because it transforms it into something so pleasurable that it's very hard to leave any in the pan while the pudding cooks. Other than that, I used a similar ratio of ingredients to normal and used Jane Grigson's recipe as my guide.

It's a sticky, sweet, hot-and-cold-and-saucy, mood-lifting, filling and generally all-round wonderful way to counteract the gloomy rain and finish off Pudding Month. I hope you've enjoyed the month as much as I have.



Finally, I couldn't resist sharing - last week our family expanded. Meet Albert: he's Arthur's nephew, just turned eight weeks old, enjoys helping me test recipes and is very cute. They're all back in Switzerland and he's settling in really well.



Sticky Toffee Pudding
(inspired by Jane Grigson's English Food and Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt)

For the pudding:
100g Medjool dates (weighed without stones)
90g white caster or granulated sugar
40g cold unsalted butter
125ml boiling water
1/2 tsp vanilla paste (or extract)
1 large egg
90g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of fine sea salt

For the sauce:
150g double cream
100g light brown sugar
50g unsalted butter
fine sea salt - I used fleur de sel - to taste

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F (fan). Chop roughly half the dates into big chunks and the rest into slightly smaller pieces. Tip the sugar into a wide, heavy-bottomed pan and spread out evenly. Turn the heat up to medium-high and watch carefully - after a few minutes, the sugar will start to liquify at the edges. Don't stir it - you can flick some of the crystals onto a liquid bit, but don't fiddle too much. Once it's nearly all melted and starts to caramelise, swirl it all together. Keep heating until you have a deep bronze colour. To stop it cooking, remove from the heat and add the butter and stir as it bubbles. Next add the boiling water, the dates and the vanilla paste. Stir until the caramel has dissolved (don't worry if it's clumped up - put it over a low heat and it will dissolve). Leave to cool for 10 minutes - it will thicken a bit.

Line a small baking dish with baking parchment (or grease really well with butter) - I used a 7x5"/12x18cm (minus the lip) pie dish with slightly sloping sides - a 6" or 7" tin would probably work too or something similar. Lightly whisk the egg to break it up. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into the date-caramel pan and add the egg. Beat together until there are no lumps of flour. Scrape into the dish and place into the oven for 25 minutes.

While it bakes, make the sauce. Place the cream, brown sugar and butter into a pan and heat on medium, stirring occasionally, until you have a smooth sauce. Salt to taste a pinch at a time (keep going until you suddenly find yourself unable to stop sampling the sauce - that's the sweet spot) then pour into a jug.

After 25 minutes, a skewer or cake tester inserted into the sponge should come out clean (if not, pop it back in for another 5 minutes). Pour over some sauce and spread out to cover the whole top then put back into the oven for 3 minutes - the sauce should bubble over the top. Remove and serve hot with the extra sauce in a jug and scoops of vanilla ice cream.

The sponge reheats pretty well (it keeps in a sealed tin for a few days) covered by foil in the oven (I tend to just do the amount I'm serving). The sauce keeps in the fridge and can be reheated by placing the whole jug in a pan of hot/just simmering water and stirring until thin and hot.

(Serves 6-8, smallish but rich portions)



Three more syrupy-caramel puddings:
Sarah's Syrup Sponge
Cider Caramel, Sautéed Apples and Cinnamon Ice Cream
Crêpes Suzette

60 comments:

  1. Sticky toffee pudding and an adorable puppy in one post! You really can't do better than that...

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  2. MadisonMayberry31 January 2014 20:28

    This is just so tasty looking! I'm dying to try it. And the cute puppy pictures are fun, too!

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  3. I'm not sure whether I am more glad I read this because of the recipe or the pictures of the puppy! That being said, I love sticky toffee pudding, especially when you salt the caramel!

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  4. Sticky toffee pudding is an absolute classic, I adore it, especially when it's made with dates! I've really enjoyed seeing your posts on traditional English pudding over pudding month:) And that puppy is seriously adorable (says someone who doesn't even particularly like dogs)!

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  5. I thought Jane Grigson's recipe was unimprovable, but I am wrong. And what a lovely winter pudding. Inspiring and inspired. It looks poetic. Sophie x

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  6. Sticky toffee pudding is my favourite dessert at this time of year. Bookmarking this one!

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  7. I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of sticky toffee pudding, but that looks yummy!
    Albert is SO cute! :D

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  8. I've also had sticky toffee pudding in the Lake District of England! And it was truly the best of all the puddings I've had there. Can't remember our hotel name, but it was near Conistan. Yours looks divine!

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  9. Oh my goodness, all of these puddings you've posted look beautiful! I know where to come next time I need a winter dessert!

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  10. Really a wonderful recipe, love sticky toffee pudding and Albert is adorable!

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  12. Lillian @ sugarandcinnamon2 February 2014 00:46

    This was the ultimate comfort food pudding we had growing up! Your homemade version looks 1000x times better, I'm definitely saving it for next time!

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  13. I have been obsessed with sticky toffee pudding this weekend, I've eaten so much of it! your recipe looks delicious

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  14. What Kate Baked2 February 2014 15:28

    What a fine finale to Pudding Month- a comforting, sticky, sumptuous pud AND a very cute puppy picture!

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  15. Gosh, I had new idea that it was such a comparatively modern invention. It is one of my absolute favourites and a suitably fitting finale for a wonderful month of pudding-joy!

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  16. I have to comment on the pudding first and say YUM before getting too distracted by the PUPPY. He's SO cute! Sorry, way too many caps but this post totally deserves them :-)

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  17. Exactly - how could you not like it? The paws are very cute - especially as he has little white 'socks' on the tips of his toes :)

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  18. Maybe I should just quit while I'm ahead ;)

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  19. I hope you do get to try it one day! I read your post about Pippa with great interest the other day - she's so cute.

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  20. Heh! I thought you guys might like to see him. The salt really does take the sauce to another level. Stops it all being too sweet, too.

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  21. I'm so pleased you've enjoyed the month and that Albert is converting you to dogs! Out of curiosity, have you ever come across sticky toffee without dates?

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  22. I love Jane's recipes and I admit that changing things up a bit felt a bit wrong at first but in the end the recipe turned out so well that I don't feel too awful. So pleased you like it.

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  23. It really is a perfect winter pudding. Do let me know how it goes if you try it.

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  24. Is there a reason you're not a big fan? He really is very cute and he seems to be bigger every time I see him on Skype.

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  25. A few reasons really!
    1 - I always thought it was overly spiced, and I don't really like a lot of winter spices. Not too keen on dates either!
    2 - After a big meal I've always found it too heavy and stodgy.
    3 - It seems to be on so many dessert menus, so suppose I get sick of seeing it!

    It seems that some of my reasons don't really stand now though, having looked at your recipe and others online - there are no spices involved?! Thinking about it, I've also never really given dates a fair trial, so maybe I do like them!
    Maybe it's time to give sticky toffee pudding another go... (any excuse to eat more pudding!)

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  26. How interesting - I guess most dark cakes do have spices - I can see where that might come from. I think a few recipes do add a bit of spice - I think I've seen cloves. I agree that it's too heavy after a big meal - definitely would be something I'd have after a small main course. I find dates can be too sweet on their own, but I do really like them here. Anyway, I'd be interested to see what you think if you do give it another go!

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  27. The Lakes are lovely, aren't they. Glad you found a good example!

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  28. I'm so pleased you've enjoyed the puddings - let me know if you try any of them :)

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  29. It is comfort in a bowl. Do let me know how if goes if you do try it.

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  30. January is the perfect time for a sticky toffee obsession!

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  31. I'm so pleased you think so - I though pudding and puppies might go down well :)

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  32. I was surprised when I read about it too. Thank you for all your pudding month support!

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  33. Do you think the sponge would freeze well at all once baked? Much as I love this pudding, it serves a few too many for my house! Thanks :)
    P.S. such a cute puppy!!

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  34. I have frozen the majority of one of my tests but I haven't defrosted it yet so I'm not quite sure how it'll end up - sorry I can't be clearer. I think it will be ok, though not as good as fresh. The sauce freezes too and is soft enough when frozen to be put in one bag and then scooped out as you need it. It does keep for quite a few days without freezing too.


    It's probably also worth noting that my portion sizes are generally pretty small - this is roughly half the size of most STP recipes and most of them claim to serve about 6-8 too. So I think a lot of people would say the recipe above only serves 3 or 4 max. I live on my own at the moment and like small portions so I try to not write unreasonably large recipes!

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  35. Yes, we have a recipe for a sticky toffee pudding that really is more like a caramel sponge with toffee sauce - it's very nice and is also super quick to make, but like I said I much prefer a recipe with dates (Nigella's is my favourite I must admit - but I haven't tried your version yet:).

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  36. Oh how interesting - I've never seen a recipe like that. Though - dare I say it, I'm not sure it's sticky toffee without the dates. But delicious nonetheless I'm sure! Do let me know what you think if you try my version.

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  37. Ana @ maninas.wordpress.com4 February 2014 20:36

    The light on the finished pudding in the white bowl is just perfect! love it!

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  38. Thanks Ana! I love the glow from the spoon in that photo.

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  39. No, no, noooo, it was definitely not meant that way! :)
    Can't wait to give this a go on the weekend!

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  40. Nila @ thetoughcookie.com5 February 2014 17:17

    Hi Emma, I've been looking for a good sticky pudding recipe and this looks amazing. I'm definitely going to try this ;)

    And Albert just looks too cute!

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  41. Hehe, don't worry, I was only teasing!

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  42. Grüezi from another Swiss blogger :-) Albert looks like just the sweetest dog! I absolutely love sticky date pudding but often find most versions to be too sweet for my liking. I can't wait to give your version a try.

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  43. When do you add the honey?

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  44. You stir it in at the end, once the custard has been made. Hope that helps.

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  45. Sticky toffee pudding is one of my absolute favourite desserts :-) Albert is so gorgeous. My dog also has white 'socks' on his feet. He's three years old now but seeing those little paws still makes me melt inside :-)

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  46. I completely agree about the taste of bicarb. Congratulations on the new puppy. He looks adorable.

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  47. Aw, how sweet! What type of dog is he?

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  48. It's such a horrid flavour, isn't it. He really is adorable - and so much bigger now!

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  49. He's a collie with white and golden fur and a big bushy blonde tail, so cute!

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  50. Hello! This is really late, but... when you say boiling water, do you mean boiling hot water or water that has been boiled? Heh thanks! I'm planning to make this soon, it looks delicious :D

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  51. Hi - I mean water that is boiling hot from the kettle (I'd use boiled water if I meant cooler water that had been boiled earlier I think). I hope you like it - do let me know how it goes!

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  52. yum. its on my list of things to do this weekend.

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  53. Ooh, lovely - I'd love to know how it goes if you have a moment next week.

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  54. Hi Emma, sure I'll let you know. Its always been one of family favourites. I'm sure my teenage daughters will help me and fight over seconds.

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  55. My husband wants the little puppy Albert is SO SO CUTE!! :-)
    Love your posts and pics! I might just have to make this pud at the weekend, I keep looking at your blog and forgetting I am meant to be on a diet!
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  56. He's so much bigger now! I'm glad you like the post & I hope you try the recipe one day - do let me know it you do.

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  57. Dozens of comments about how wonderful this is, but nobody actually bothers to make the damn thing and tell us what they think. Timewasters!

    Anyway, I was intrigued by the method and thought I'd give it a go. I made two, one with the sauce - a pudding - and one without - a cake. Unfortunately, this method offers nothing beyond the regular one in that the pudding only works because the sauce carries all the flavour; the cake itself is pretty bland and really just a texture, i.e. no different to every other STP. This is not meant as a criticism, merely an observation about the essential nature of this "classic".

    In short, the extra faff of making a caramel for the cake isn't worth it. Just make your regular date sponge and concentrate on producing the best sauce you possibly can.

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  58. Thanks for letting me know what you think, it's always interesting to hear how a recipe is received. I have to say that I'm surprised you found the cake bland and didn't notice the difference (though, as with everything, it's all personal taste). The combination with the sauce is, of course, what makes it special. I think it's worth the extra step but I accept it's not for everyone.

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