STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING
I have been wanting to try making this iconic Brit dessert ever since we had it for dessert New Year’s Eve 2008 at Gordon Ramsay’s at Claridges. As “the goddess of google”, my approach to recipe hunting is to locate recipes from my favorite sources, and combine them into what I think will be the perfect version. As this dessert is English, obvious sources would be Nigella and Jamie Oliver (most of these versions were in metric and you know I am terminally lazy/moronic when it comes to numbers-but I had the Ovaltine that Oliver adds). But I also like to see how Tyler Florence tweaks it (I love his bold flavors), and how Cooks Illustrated parses the formula in their inimitable, scientific ways. Add to this my penchant for purchasing arcane ingredients with which to experiment.
In the end, after tossing options that referred to ‘castor sugar’, ‘bicarbonate of soda’ or ‘gas mark 4’, I came up with this conglomeration. I decided to forego the custard of the C.I. version in favor of a small scoop of ice cream, but I bet either creme fraiche, or clotted cream would have been equally awesome, and I used Nigella’s lush sauce recipe for sheer decadence.
I made it in six ramekins, but they were pretty much unfinishably large, so next time I will divide it into eight, or else try making it in a small bundt pan (or else, figure out what the ‘pudding bowl’ in the brit recipes is).
5 tablespoons butter, softened, plus more for greasing the ramekins
1 cup (about15) whole pitted dates, cut in slices
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup boiling water, plus more for the water bath
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons Ovaltine (optional)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses (or half molasses and half karo)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven 325ºF.Grease six 4-ounce ramekins with butter and line the bottoms with parchment. Arrange the ramekins in a roasting pan lined with a clean dish towel (to prevent them from sliding around). Combine the dates, baking soda, and 3/4 cup boiling water in a medium bowl and set aside. Mash it up or whiz briefly in food processor.
2. Mix the flour, baking powder, ovaltine and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter and brown sugar together in mixer on medium-low speed until just mixed. Add the molasses and vanilla and beat until just combined. Scrape down. Resume mixing on low, adding the egg, then the date mixture and finally adding the flour mixture until just combined.
3. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared ramekins. Carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins, making sure not to splash it into the puddings. Cover the pan tightly with foil, crimping the edges to seal. Bake the puddings until they are slightly puffed and a butter knife inserted into the center of the puddings comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
THE TOFFEE SAUCE
6 Tablespoons butter
½ cup brown sugar
1/2 pod vanilla bean split
¼ cup heavy cream
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Put vanilla bean in, and whisk in sugar and cook stirring, until sugar melts. Slowly mix in cream and salt and simmer about 3 minutes, or until smooth and thick. Discard vanilla bean.
Remove from the heat. You can make this ahead, and when ready to serve puddings, reheat until smooth and warm.