My family had its big ol' Christmas dinner on Christmas eve and I was recruited to make dessert. I wanted to make something new but couldn't decide what to make. Joe suggested sticky toffee pudding which sounded perfect and sorta festive.
I've been to England a couple time now and was pretty familiar with sticky toffee pudding. My dad took my brother and I on a trip to England and Germany when I was 14 and I quickly learned that British cooking is... how do you say... atrocious. After several meals I settled on living on baked potatoes as that was the one thing even the English couldn't manipulate to taste like shoes.
British desserts fared a lot better, though maybe only because I was blinded by sugar. But British desserts were puzzling. I was very confused the first time I ordered a sticky toffee pudding and was served a gooey cake, not pudding. Were the English so deranged that they did not know that pudding was supposed to be, well, pudding? They had obviously ruined this pudding as it was quite solid. And so I learned that pudding basically indicates a dessert, not necessarily an actual pudding of the jelloid variety.
Apparently other Americans are not familiar with this phenomenon either, as I encountered while looking for a recipe for sticky toffee pudding. One confused American wrote, "Should this be refrigerated since its a pudding?" If it looks like a cake, tastes like a cake and walks like a cake (in that it does not walk at all) its a cake, lady. No refrigeration necessary.
Another popular British pudding I tried was spotted dick, a dessert I delighted in ordering because it mortified my little brother. Piers was around 10 at the time and the uttering of 'spotted dick' sent him into a blind panic. He would wail, "Stop SAYING that!" and my dad and I would say, "What, Piers? You don't want us to say SPOTTED DICK? Whats wrong with SPOTTED DICK, eh? Don't you want to eat some SPOTTED DICK?" And then we would laugh and laugh and Piers would say something about wanting to go home. I'm not sure, I wasn't really listening.
- 12 ounces dates, pitted and roughly chopped
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) softened, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Butterscotch sauce, recipe follows:
- 2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1 teaspoon brandy
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup cold heavy cream, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with parchment or waxed paper.
Combine the dates and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and gradually stir in the baking soda (it will foam up), and set aside.
In a bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar to the butter, and cream until fluffy. Without stopping the mixer, add 2 of the eggs and mix until combined. Add the remaining 2 eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture and 1/3 of the dates and mix until combined. Repeat until all the flour mixture and the dates are incorporated into the batter. Pour into the baking pan and bake about 40 minutes, until firm and set in the center. Let cool in the pan. When cool, turn out of the pan onto a baking sheet and peel off the parchment paper. The recipe can be made through this step up to 2 days in advance.
Butterscotch Sauce: Combine the brown sugar, butter, half-and-half, and brandy in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil 3 minutes, until combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
When ready to serve pudding, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour the sauce evenly over the top of the cake. Bake until the sauce is bubbly and cake is heated through, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream into soft peaks with the mixer. Cut the cake into squares and serve with whipped cream.----------------------------------------
So. About the cake. Or pudding. Or whatever. I was disappointed with how it turned out but I think that's mostly my fault. I overcooked the cake and the toffee sauce and it would've been a lot better if I hadn't screwed it up, oops. Never the less, it was still pretty good, especially with whipped cream. And my little cousin ate enough of it to satiate him for days so at least its elementary school approved.
And note: the last time I went to England a couple years ago, the food had vastly improved and my diet consisted of more than potatoes. In fact, when we were stranded in the farmland in the middle of nowhere, I spent the majority of my time eating and trying not to die of allergies. But that's another story!