Conversations about travel make me nostalgic not just for the place but for the food too. I may not mark my attendance at the ‘must visit’ places but I always find my way to the ‘must eat’. Little wonder then that writing about Scotland has me craving some whisky and the sinful Sticky Toffee Pudding.
The Sticky Toffee Pudding is essentially a British dessert but also marks its appearance in listings of traditional Scottish food.
My first encounter with this heaven on a plate (though I say that for every cake dessert!) was a pre-packed piece picked up in Bristol. In Scotland, however, I ensured it was part of a meal, served the way it should be – with hot toffee sauce poured on top and vanilla ice-cream on the side.
There are three parts to this dessert – the dates, the cake, the sauce. You will need to prep the dates before you move on to the cake. The sauce can be made before you start the cake or even while you are waiting for the cake to be cooked. The cake and sauce can be kept at room temperature for a day. Any longer and you need to keep both the cake and the sauce in the refrigerator. Do warm them before serving.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Recipe Origin: Scotland/United Kingdom
Time: 1 hour+few minutes
Piping hot black coffee – 1 ¼ cups
Chopped Mejdool dates – 1 ½ cups
Baking soda – 1 teaspoon
All-purpose flour – 1 ½ cups
Baking powder – 1 teaspoon
Salt – ½ teaspoon
Brown sugar – ¾ cup
Unsalted butter – 6 tablespoons
Eggs – 2
Brown sugar – 1 ¼ cups
Heavy cream – ½ cup
Unsalted butter – ¼ cup
Vanilla extract/essence – ½ teaspoon
Note for beginners (like me): Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. You can use any variety of seedless dates; better the quality, better your dessert. And please, measure out the ingredients and set them aside before you begin. You do not want to be fumbling for something midway and burn the dates or stop stirring the toffee sauce. #bewarned #learnfromme
The dates – Place the chopped dates in a deep pan, pour in the brewed coffee and bring to a boil. Simmer until the dates are cooked. The dates need space to do their thing later hence the need for a deep pan.
Once the dates are cooked, take a deep breath, hold and add the baking soda. There will be a bit of bubbling, fizzing and some stinking but that is fine. It will likely turn a strange colour too but don’t fret.
Switch off the heat, set aside the dates to cool and have a quick cuppa.
The cake – Preheat the oven to 180°C, butter and flour your baking tin and set aside.
In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. In a second bigger bowl, mix the butter and sugar till fluffy. Add one egg and mix thoroughly. Add the second egg and whisk the batter.
Add half the flour mixture to this buttery mix and beat until combined. Pour in the date mixture, give it a quick stir and add the remaining flour mix. Mix well. Try not to over beat.
Pour the batter into the baking tin and pop it into the oven for around 30-40 minutes or until cooked.
The sauce – In a thick-bottomed saucepan, mix the sugar, cream, butter and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for around 3 minutes and don’t stop stirring. If you are in the danger of getting high on the delicious smell then use a timer. Once the sauce has thickened, remove from heat, add the vanilla extract, whisk and set aside. It was exceptionally cold the day I was making this pudding and the sauce turned rock solid. I had to heat it on medium flame to make it pourable and it tasted as divine.
The cake (again): Once the cake is done, allow it to cool for a FEW minutes before poking some holes in it. Pour in some of the toffee sauce and set the cake aside. Let the sauce work its magic, say for about 20-30 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve topped with sauce, a side of vanilla ice cream, and some hot coffee.
Psst… If you’ve got toffee sauce left over, pour it over some popcorn, give it a shake and whoppee! You’ve got yourself some toffee-flavoured popcorn.
photos: Vaibhav Tanna and Rapti Bhaumick