AND STILL THE STORMS, the wet and the wind of this dreadful winter rage on… Flooding over a huge part of the country, no chance of getting out in the garden, dogs returning mud-bespattered from every walk – definitely time for some comfort food!
My son was back from university this weekend with his American girlfriend and they put in a request for his all-time favourite winter pudding: Sticky Toffee. It certainly hits the spot on these dank, sunless days, all the better for being served with some homemade ice-cream – honeycomb or amaretto are two of my favourites. Well, it WAS his birthday, so what could I do but rise to the challenge?
I believe my Sticky Toffee Pudding is the original Sharrow Bay recipe from the famous Lake District hotel of the same name. My version is now recorded on a very scruffy magazine cutting in my well-worn recipe scrapbook, but it has certainly stood the test of time!
Tempted? Here’s how:
6oz stoneless dates, finely chopped (I snip them with scissors)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2oz unsalted butter
6oz caster sugar (or Muscovado sugar works well for a more treacly result)
2 medium eggs, beaten
6oz self-raising flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
7oz light Muscovado sugar
Small pot double cream (1/4 pt)
1 tsp vanilla extract
7” square cake tin, greased and lined
Pour ½ pt water over the chopped dates in a small pan and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add bicarbonate of soda and set aside for 10 mins to cool.
Set oven to 180˚C, Gas 4.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in eggs. Carefully fold in the flour, then the date and water mixture and vanilla extract. The mixture will look very loose and sloppy at this stage: this is quite right! Do not be tempted to add anything else to thicken it up!
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes until springy to the touch and dark-golden in colour.
While it’s cooking, prepare the sauce: mix all ingredients together in a pan over a gentle heat until they come to the boil, then simmer gently for 3-4 minutes until toffee-coloured.
When the pudding is cooked, drizzle a little of the sauce over the top and return to the oven for 5 minutes.
To serve, cool slightly, then cut into generous squares and serve with the hot sauce.
Leftover sauce can be stored in the fridge and reheated in the microwave: you may find you need to add more cream in this case to keep a runny consistency. The sauce is also delicious with ice-cream and/or profiteroles!
AS FOR THE ICE-CREAM, good vanilla is always acceptable but I like to make a very simple honeycomb ice-cream (no ice-cream maker required!) or an amaretto ice-cream which I do make in an ice-cream maker, but you could always part-freeze and re-whip in the time-honoured manner.
The Honeycomb is simplicity itself: place 5 tbsp granulated sugar and 2 tbsp golden syrup in a pan and cook over a low heat until the sugar melts, then boil quickly until it turns a mid-gold caramel colour. Remove from the heat and quickly sift 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda over it – it will froth up dramatically, so stir gently to combine any loose powder, then pour onto a greased baking tray and leave to cool and set. Meanwhile whip 1 pint of whipping cream with a large tin of condensed milk (not the light version) until quite stiff. Fold in the honeycomb pieces and place in a freezer container. Freeze overnight until set: enjoy!
And last but not least, the Amaretto for a more sophisticated treat: make a syrup by dissolving 4 oz granulated sugar in 4 tsp water in a small pan and cooking for 5 mins until syrupy. Allow to cool completely. Whip 1 pt whipping cream with the cold syrup and 3 tbsp amaretto liqueur until it thickens and begins to hold its shape. Pour into an ice-cream maker (mine is a basic Magimix Glacier model where you have to freeze the bottom bowl in the freezer overnight beforehand: simple but effective – and not very expensive to buy if you make a lot of ice cream (or have made the mistake of making your own and are unable to revert back to the shop-bought stuff like me!). It should take about 30-40 minutes to churn, then turn into a freezer container and stir in about 12 crushed amaretti biscuits – or more according to taste! Freeze overnight and serve as desired. The alcohol content keeps this one relatively soft, but you may need to get it out of the freezer 10 mins or so before serving for ultimate unctuousness.
There: probably most of your sugar quota for the month, but worth every mouthful. And just what’s needed whilst we wait for the first shoots of spring….