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Sticky Toffee Pudding – Sometimes the Only Thing That Stands Between You and a Meltdown in a Foreign Country

by Carilyn on May 11, 2015

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With a son in London, I’ve been to the UK three times in the last two years. Always somewhat of an Anglophile, it has been a fun adventure to hop across the pond and practice my British accent (Let’s just hop on the Tube and grab a spot of tea and a scon [people in the know would never say it with a long “o”]” See how good my accent is?). I love the polite busy-ness of London, the quaint shops, the gorgeous parks and the castle-y feel to almost all of the buildings, even the pubs.

But British food, well, that has taken a bit more coaxing for me to embrace. I grew up in an English family – all of my relatives are English (yes, we are a bland clan, but we’ve all had our teeth fixed) so I grew up eating the traditional Sunday roast dinner with Yorkshire pudding at my grandparents’ almost weekly. And there was a lot of afternoon tea being poured, it seemed, although in hindsight, that may have just been what they were calling it instead of “cocktail hour” (we also had that secretive Puritan thing going). So, you would think that when I hit the British shores a few weeks ago, I’d be hankering for meat pies and mash.

Uh, no.

I mean, the first pie was scrumdidlyumptious. And the second pie was good. But by the fifth freakin’ pie, I was like, really? Now, clearly the consumption of an overabundance of meat baked into pastry in the UK is as much the fault of the dummy who keeps going into restaurants and ordering the pies (me) as it is the proud purveyors of said pies (them). But, come on, when they are on EVERY MENU IN EVERY RESTAURANT it starts to seem like those pies just might be stalking you.

After days of pies, I finally put my foot down and force-marched my pub food loving clan to the Gilbert Scott, the gorgeous restaurant in the San Pancras Hotel, and of which I lovingly carried their hardback cookbook all the way back to LA on our last trip. Yes, it is a white tablecloth and thousand-forks-at-lunch kind of place, but damnit, I needed some fish! And some artichoke soup! And a vegetable that WAS NOT A PEA, FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!

Sorry, I lost my head for a moment.

So, my clan obediently sat at the lovely table in the lovely dining room and didn’t even whisper the words “meat pie”. They seemed to be mildly afraid of me at this point.

Sigh.

We ate and ate and ate. Lamb and duck and sea bass and prime rib. We shared broccoli rabe and root vegetables. We may, or may not, have hoarded a bubbling little dish of au gratin potatoes. We had wine at noon. The world resumed turning.

And then it was time for dessert. I had been waiting for six months to order Sticky Toffee Pudding, the most British of British desserts. But, what?! It’s not on the menu?! How can that be?! ISN’T THIS AN ENGLISH-FREAKIN’ RESTAURANT?!

Sorry. Again.

Turns out the Gilbert Scott serves the Banana Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce that I unknowingly made from its cookbook months before, instead. Wait! How can this be?! I made this at home! In America! I want TRADITIONAL STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING!

Ahem. I ate the banana bread pudding. And it was better than mine, so it all worked out.

But next trip, oh Britain, I will find Sticky Toffee Pudding if is the last thing I do!

 

Epilogue: When we got home I googled Sticky Toffee Pudding and saw that my favorite cookbook writer, Deb Perelman, has a great recipe for it. I tweaked hers a bit just because I didn’t have plain vanilla or mint, and I like a little salt in my caramel, but her recipe was easy to follow and so sticky, gooey delicious.

Epilogue 2: Please, please, please eat all three components (cake, sauce, whipped cream) together. This is definitely a recipe where the sum is so much greater than the parts. After I made the cake, I tasted it and went, “Meh” and almost didn’t bother making the sauce or whipped cream. It just didn’t seem worth it. But, I knew I owed you the full recipe, so I made them and, WOWZA! Now we’re talking! Suddenly the recipe was so, so good! (I’m sorry to all you date lovers out there, but plain date cake is not that good. It definitely needs some toffee and cream!).

 

Sticky Toffee Pudding (adapted from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen)

Cake

3/4 pound dried dates

2 1/4 cups boiling water

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 stick (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter

3/4 cups sugar

2 Tbs. brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/4 tsp. salt

1 2/3 cup flour

 

Sauce

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. brown sugar

 

Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy whipping cream

a pinch of sugar

 

Cake: Pit and roughly chop dates and place them in a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over them and stir in the baking soda. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes. This rehydrates the dates so they will be moist in the batter.

Heat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan.

Blend date/water mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. In a large bowl, combine melted butter and sugars. Whisk in eggs, then salt. Stir in the flour, then date puree. Pour the batter into pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Sauce: Combine butter, cream, sugar and vanilla in a large saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk for about 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly.

Cream: Place metal bowl in the freezer for a few minutes to make whipping easier. When chilled, pour 2 cups heavy cream into bowl and whip on low for a couple of minutes until slightly thickened. Add a pinch of sugar and continue to whip on high until firm peaks form (you can stop earlier if you like a softer cream. Just don’t whip too long where it turns into butter :) ).

To serve: Cut the cake into squares. Drizzle each slice with toffee sauce and top with whipped cream, if desired (Do it).

Cheers!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Char May 11, 2015 at 12:00 pm

I don’t know what’s happened to England if you can’t get a sticky toffee pudding when you ask for it. Anarchy and ruin. It’s a sad state of affairs.
Char recently posted…Mother’s Day Classic 2015My Profile

ultrarunnergirl/Kirstin C May 13, 2015 at 11:51 am

Sounds like the sauce and whipped cream need nothing more!
ultrarunnergirl/Kirstin C recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Dragon’s ToothMy Profile

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