Sticky Toffee Pudding

Okay, so this was meant to be baked and posted yesterday, but my boyfriend and I got embroiled in making a late dinner and chatting to housemates, and before we knew it it was 1am and I was too sleepy to be trusted with anything meticulous like weighing out ingredients. I actually made this pudding earlier this evening with my old (that’s former, not ancient) housemates – a lovely reunion that included many rounds of my new game, Bananagrams (thank you to my lovely Valentine who knows me so well!), and a delicious dinner of Chinese porridge followed by the very English Sticky Toffee pudding 🙂

Nothing like a saucy pud on a cold night.

Nothing like a saucy pud on a cold night.

Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day to all and let’s pretend I have kept up with blog posts and today is still Friday. healthy-valentines-heart

More properly named St Valentine’s Day, the celebration began in honour of the early Christian saint Valentine of Rome or Valentine of Terni, depending on the denomination of Christianity followed, at around AD500. The tradition of giving gifts of flowers or confectionery and sending greeting cards evolved in 18th century England, which lead to the mass-production of Valentine’s Cards from the 19th century onwards, eventually earning the day the accolade of a ‘Hallmark holiday’ for some as a result of its increasing commercialisation. Today, Valentine’s is still celebrated in many countries around the world, and as part of the calendar of various Christian denominations, such as Anglicans and Lutherans. It is also called the Feast of Saint Valentine…an excellent excuse to bake some delicious treats, no?

However you celebrated, or indeed if you didn’t, making this Sticky Toffee Pudding would be a wonderful way to:

a. show someone  you care through putting thought and effort into a special bake (and ‘someone’ here includes yourself by the way  – caring for the self is no less important than caring for others in my book!) and

b. stave off the misery that freezing rain/sleet/snow/hail and ferocious, biting winds can afflict you with in these cold months.

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The recipe is from a newly-found blog, Poires au Chocolatthat I really enjoy reading, which is included in my ‘Delicious and Inspirational Food Blogs’ page as well as linked to above. I’ve taken a small detour away from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible recipes because, shock horror, there is no Sticky Toffee Pudding in the book, and once I’d seen Emma’s version on Poires au Chocolat I couldn’t wait to try it – I hope she doesn’t mind my reproducing the recipe here and will include the link to her original recipe at the end of the post. Emma posted Sticky Toffee Pudding as part of her blog’s Pudding Month – what a brilliant idea! Who doesn’t love a steamy, stodgy, saucy traditional pudding in the winter time? The sauce in this version is slightly salted which I am also a big fan of; avoiding a sweetness overload and adding an extra dimension which makes the whole eating experience a but more interesting and memorable. If you are steadfastly sweet-toothed, feel free to omit the salt though 🙂

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I had never made sticky toffee pudding at all before, so had my fingers crossed that it would go down well with my housemates, and my other, probably slightly more discerning, critic: my stomach. I am pleased to report that it was a success! Its fun and surprisingly easy to make  – I feel like I could wap it out again tomorrow if necessary, though my poor sugar-coated teeth might object to that…

Ingredients:

  • 100g dates
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 125ml boiling water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or paste if you have it)
  • 1 egg
  • 90g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 150ml double cream
  • 50g butter
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • salt, to taste

Step 1. Chop the dates, some small chunks, some big, or depending on how textured you want the pudding to be. Measure out the caster sugar into a wide, heavy-bottomed pan and then weigh out but don’t add the other ingredients – you want them all ready so you can concentrate on your caramel mixture, not burning it while rushing around madly looking for the vanilla extract.

Step 2. Melt the sugar over a medium high heat on the hob. DO NOT STIR. It’s tempting, but resist. Shake the sugar gently into the middle of the pan to melt it if needed, but otherwise wait patiently til it turns a deep bronze colour. Remove from the heat as you add the butter. NOW stir as it bubbles, then carefully pour in the boiling water, vanilla and chopped dates.

Step 3. Mix the caramel together until everything is melted and smooth (except the dates, obviously they won’t melt). Stand it aside to cool for ten minutes or so.

Step 4. Now you have a nice little window in which you should: preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4, line a small baking dish with baking paper and whisk an egg in a separate bowl or jug. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the date caramel, beating thoroughly, then combine with the beaten egg.

Step 5. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and transfer to the oven for 25 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer poked into the centre or deepest part of the sponge comes out clean. Whilst it bakes, make the sauce. Put the butter, cream and brown sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently. Stir often until the sauce is a smooth and glossy light brown. Add salt bit by bit and keep tasting it – this is essential, don’t just chuck in a teaspoon and leave it at that. The salted caramel, besides being one of the best dessert sauces ever invented, holds the pudding back from otherwise being unpleasantly sickly sweet.

Step 6. When the cake is cooked, the sauce should be ready – pour a portion of the toffee sauce over the pudding, covering the top. Pop it back in the oven for 3 minutes while you grab the bowls, spoons and ice cream. Serve hot with the extra sauce, and preferably ice cream. So good!

Source: Thank you very much to Emma at Poires an Chocolat, this recipe is a keeper! Here is the original recipe on her blog: http://www.poiresauchocolat.net/2014/01/sticky-toffee-pudding.html x

**Notes**

None really…I didn’t change anything for once! Be aware that when I said small baking dish, it really is quite a weeny pudding compared to what you might think. Mine served six comfortably though – its too rich to go back for seconds!

Definitely one of my new favourite puddings :)

Definitely one of my new favourite puddings 🙂

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Hot Chocolate Pudding

I love making individual desserts to follow a meal you’ve spent time preparing and cooking, it makes you feel like you’re at a posh restaurant suddenly – the individual portions are just a really nice touch and show a lot of thought, I think. The last time I made these my boyfriend came round for dinner, nothing out of the ordinary there, but I like to think that making a special effort for our meal contributed in part to us having a particularly nice lovely evening. 

Be warned: this is a Nigella recipe, so its a good job portions are individual as these heavenly chocolate pots are extremely decadent – rich chocolate sponge with a melted cream and dark chocolate oozy centre. I know. We actually ate these before I even remembered to take a picture, so apologies for that; the one I’ll put up at the end to give you an idea will be filched from the website I found the recipe on. My recipe is slightly adapted from the original but as usual I’ll put in a source from which you can check out NIgella’s version too 🙂

Ingredients*

  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g soft dark or light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 75g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder

*These proportions make enough pudding for four ramekins – I halved the recipe which worked fine.

Step 1: Melt the chocolate over a pan of gently boiling water. Stir in the cream when the chocolate has all melted and cover with clingfilm to chill in the fridge while you make the sponge.

Step 2: Cream the butter and sugar, then gradually add the beaten egg. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder. Mix well. 

Step 3: If your pudding moulds/ramekins are not non-stick, grease them with butter. Drop in the pudding mixture to about halfway up the ramekins; now here’s the exciting bit – get your chilled and partially set chocolate cream from the fridge and add a generous teaspoon of deliciousness to the middle of your ramekin. Cover over with more pudding mixture. Oooooooo.

Step 4: Bake in the oven at 200C/Gas Mark 6 for 10 – 15 minutes. There should be a shiny top on the pudding but it wants to still have a bit of a wobble in the middle. You can turn the puddings out when baked – Nigella suggests serving with cream or ice cream but I’m not sure my sour tooth could cope with that – or eat them from the dishes they’re baked in. 

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Source: http://www.nigella.com ‘Hot Chocolate Puddings’ – this is the picture of Nigella’s puddings – I didn’t turn mine out but they did look pretty much as good as those in my eyes! So good, and so easy to make! Enjoy with abandonment and no guilt please, these are too good for that 🙂

Apple and Blackberry Crumble

Crumble is such an autumnal dessert, I always think – warm and comforting, the perfect antidote to the rainy day blues. I made this the other evening for my housemates when we were sharing a meal as we often do – which is a beautiful and very sociable thing by the way, try it with whoever you live with if you don’t cook/bake together already – and it went down pretty well, especially paired with some ice cream. I didn’t make my own ice cream this time I’m afraid; life has significantly increased in tempo recently – which is great, and I’m so enjoying being busy again! – but means shortcuts to cooking and baking are usually necessary sacrifices. 

I picked up some blackberries in the reduced section (99p!) that were perfect, but weren’t going to stay that way for very long, and then my housemate brought out some sorely neglected apples from her room that were slightly past their best, but still definitely usable to cook with. I suddenly remembered I had a little bag of leftover crumble mix from a few weeks ago in the freezer and bob’s your uncle, we had a crumble (that almost rhymes). You can use a huge variety of different fruits in a crumble, I think I like a hard fruit – like apples, pears, or rhubarb – put together with a soft fruit like berries, plums or maybe apricots best. Experiment; use your favourites/the forlorn-looking ones in the fruit bowl. Even if you don’t have crumble mix frozen (if you don’t, make extra now and then you’ll have leftovers to freeze for next time), this is probably the quickest pudding you can make to round off a lovely stew, casserole, roast dinner or any equally substantial, cold-weather meal.

For the crumble topping:

  • plain flour
  • butter (if using proper butter, unsalted, cubed and at room temp)
  • brown sugar
  • rolled oats (like you use for porridge)

**I haven’t included measurements here – if you want them ask ANYONE, or the internet I suppose, and they’ll have the proportions – I tend to do it by sight now because its a very forgiving recipe and depends on the size of your crumble, which depends on what dish you have and how much fruit you’ve bought. Basically, if the mix is too wet in the first stage; add more flour, too dry; rub in more butter. Oats and sugar are optional (but its a bit boring without, to be honest) and the quantity is to your liking really. Other things you might want to add to the topping could include raisins/sultanas, crystallized ginger, fudge or toffee pieces, dried apricots…endless possibilities! Anyway, back to the recipe:

 

For the fruit filling:

  • a couple of handfuls of blackberries
  • 3 or 4 medium sized apples, preferably crunchy rather than soft or mushy

 

Step 1: Rub the flour and sugar together between your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.

Step 2: Combine the basic mix with soft brown sugar and oats, and then add any other exciting embellishments you think will take your crumble to the next level.

Step 3: Core and dice the apples (you can peel them if you like but the skin is where all the flavour is!) and cover the bottom of your dish with them. Scatter over the blackberries, then pour the crumble topping over the whole lot, getting into all the corners and covering all the fruit. If your fruit isn’t pre-cooked or very soft, add a tablespoon or so of water to the fruit before topping with the crumble mix, and if it is very sharp, sprinkle extra brown sugar on.

*As I had a ready-made bag of mix rather than making it to fit the crumble, there wasn’t quite enough to cover the fruit as much as I normally like to; however, the general consensus was that less crumble mix made the pudding lighter and not stodgy which was a good thing after a filling hot dinner. 

Step 4: Pop the assembled crumble into an oven heated to around 180C/Gas Mark 4 for 25-30 minutes. The topping should be golden brown, and the fruit cooked through but not too mushy so that it holds its shape and has a bit of texture. Serve warm with ice cream, custard, cream, toffee sauce, golden syrup…or just plain if you’re not a pudding glutton. Lovely.

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Sources: None really! As I said this one was mostly off the top of my head but crumble recipes are the easiest things in the world to find and remember or adjust. Thanks to our honorary housemate who bought the cute dishes shown in the photograph as a housewarming present for us all! X