What do you serve at your Christmas dinner for dessert? For many, it’s pie; apple or pumpkin, similar to Thanksgiving. For some, it’s fruitcake. For a large chunk of time, for me, it was a Bailey’s Cheesecake. A more British Christmas tradition is to serve a pudding.
Now, pudding is a misleading word to those of us who don’t live across the big pond. Pudding is basically the British word for dessert, so it could be anything. When it comes to Christmas, however, pudding is steeped in tradition. Normally, it’s made with plums or figs, and other dried fruits (all of which have symbolic significance), steamed, and then dried for months before being doused with brandy and lit on fire as the culmination of the Christmas feast.
It’s less than two weeks until Christmas. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
This dessert, however, could be an excellent stand-in. The cake is incredibly moist, partly due to its being cooked (ie partially steamed) in a bain-marie, and partly because it’s laced with sweet, moist dates. Served still-warm from the oven, smothered in sticky toffee sauce, it’s to die for.
A quick sidebar about The Dirty Apron: here in Vancouver, it’s one of our best cooking schools around. I’ve taken classes there, and it was a real treat. They have a gorgeous kitchen, and fantastic instructors. They also have a wonderful little deli where they sell homemade treats, sandwiches, and also gourmet items.
The man in charge here is David Robertson. For five years, Robertson was the Chef de Cuisine at Chambar, one of the city’s oldest and most respected modern French restaurants. I think every foodie in the city got a little flutter when they found out that The Dirty Apron was publishing a cookbook.
It’s pretty. So, so pretty. Gorgeous photographs. The recipes in this book are not for the beginning cook. Many of the recipes for mains, for example, contain more than a dozen ingredients, and two or three recipes inside recipes. But if you’re someone like me, who as mastered the basics, I think you’ll love this book. I have bookmarked many recipes that I can’t wait to try.
This one was the first one I tried, and it is a winner.
By the way, my friend Marianne is giving away a copy of The Dirty Apron Cookbook. Head over to her blog to enter.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Ingredients for the pudding:
- 1 cup pitted dates, coarsely chopped
- 2 tsp instant coffee granules or 5 drops of LorAnn Oils Coffee flavour
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup AP flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tbsp butter, at room temperature, plus more for buttering the pans
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
Ingredients for the sticky toffee sauce:
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 3 tbsp whipping cream
- 2 tbsp liqueur of your choice (Bailey’s is suggested, I used bourbon, anything whiskey-or brandy- based would be fine)
- In a small saucepan, bring the dates, water and coffee to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the baking soda, then allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, beat together, in a separate bowl, the butter, sugar and eggs. Add the baking powder and flour, and beat until well combined. Fold in the date mixture.
- Butter 4 small ramekins (you could also use a muffin tin), or a larger one if you want to make one big pudding. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the ramekins into a cake pan, and then fill them 1/2 way full. Pull the oven shelf out a bit, and then place the cake pan with the ramekins into your oven. Fill up the cake pan, about halfway, with boiling water, creating a water bath for your ramekins. Bake for 15 minutes at 350, then turn the heat down to 525, and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until a skewer poked into the middle of the pudding comes out just crumbs.
- Allow to cool slightly before serving.
- To make the sticky toffee sauce: melt the butter and brown sugar together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cream and the booze, and allow to boil gently until it thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.
- To serve: unmould the pudding and place it on a plate. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (if desired) and generously pour over the warm sticky toffee sauce.