THE WASHINGTON POST – There’s so much we can chalk up to the naivete of youth – things that, in retrospect, make you go, “What was I thinking?” For me, a lot of those realisations involve food. As someone who grew up picky and slowly expanded my palate and experience into Professional Food Writer, hindsight can be particularly depressing.
Take sticky toffee pudding. Barely out of college and just learning how to cook, I was inspired to try a sticky toffee pudding ice cream from Häagen-Dazs. Just as the brand wanted, my then-boyfriend and I fell hook, line and sinker when we were overcome by curiosity after seeing a special about a flavour contest on Food Network. So we bought it, tried it and, well, the pint did not do much for us, even though I’m typically a devoted fan of the premium brand.
“OK, so maybe I’m just not into sticky toffee pudding,” I thought, foolishly discounting one of the most beloved desserts of Great Britain. The fact that it’s a supremely soft, date-filled and toffee-soaked cake did not register. Flash forward about seven years, when my now-husband and I were sitting in a cozy pub in Wimbledon on our first trip to England. Naturally, out came sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Naturally, it blew my mind. So much time wasted!
We’ve hardly passed up an opportunity to eat sticky toffee pudding since then. And thanks to this recipe, I – and, fingers crossed, you – will hardly pass up an opportunity to make it again.
This particular version comes from one of my favourite restaurants, the Indian powerhouse Rasika in Washington. I’ve enjoyed it in the restaurant, although I liked it even more at home. The dessert is satisfyingly soft and saucy, with a not-too-cloying sweetness. The recipe makes a dozen individual portions using a muffin tin, meaning each person gets identical, attractive puddings.
If you prefer to make one giant pudding, see the variation below, with a technique based on a recipe from Sweet!: From Agave to Turbinado, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener by Mani Niall as shared by David Lebovitz on his blog. The larger pudding is particularly tender and fluffy, and makes for a really eye-catching presentation. If you like contrasts, you’ll swoon over the sauce-saturated bottom and crunchy top.
Needless to say, growing up has its benefits. I learned I loved sticky toffee pudding. But with this recipe in hand, you don’t need to be late to the party.
STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING
Active: 25 minutes | Total: 45 minutes. 12 servings.
Make Ahead: The undipped cakes can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped, for two days or frozen for one month. The toffee syrup can be refrigerated for up to one month. To serve, warm the cakes (thawed, if frozen) briefly in the microwave before dipping them in the warmed toffee.
For the puddings
Eight ounces pitted Deglet Noor dates
One cup (240 millilitres) hot water
One and a half teaspoons baking soda
One and a half cups (187 gramme) all-purpose flour
One and a quarter teaspoons
One eighth teaspoon salt
Eight tablespoons (113 gramme) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Six tablespoons (76 gramme) packed light or dark brown sugar
Two large eggs, at room temperature
For the toffee syrup
One cup (240 millilitre) heavy cream
Eight tablespoons (One stick/113 gramme) unsalted butter
Three quarter cup (152 gramme) packed light or dark brown sugar
Position the baking rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
Make the puddings: In a food processor, pulse the dates until finely chopped. (This can also be done by hand, but the machine does a better job.)
In a medium bowl, stir together the dates, hot water and baking soda. Let rest for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about three minutes. Still on medium, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the flour mixture in two additions on low speed. Scrape down the bowl.
Add the date mixture in three additions on low speed and mix until completely incorporated.
Fill each muffin cup three-fourths full. Bake, 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one of the puddings comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the puddings from the muffin pan and onto the rack.
Make the toffee syrup: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, butter and brown sugar and stir until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved, five to seven minutes.
Remove the syrup from the heat, poke the puddings all over with a skewer, and dip each cake, one at a time, into the syrup, turning them over and over to soak them well before transferring to a (microwaveable) serving plate.
To serve, heat the puddings in the microwave for 20 seconds. Serve warm. Warm any remaining toffee syrup over low heat and serve on the side.
Variation: To make one giant pudding, butter a two-quart porcelain souffle dish (or similar-sized baking dish that is seven and a half to eight and a half inches in diameter and has tall sides). Make the sauce first and pour half of it into the dish. Chill in the freezer while you make the batter.
Transfer the batter to the dish, smooth the top and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out with moist crumbs attached. (Loosely tent the top with the foil if it starts to look too dark.) Serve straight from the dish, with the remaining sauce on the side.