Alright, this has to be one of the most addictive, unctuous and decacent desserts that a pastry chef has ever breathed life into. Its origins are a little obscure, but apparently it first appeared, in a similar guise, in an upmarket British food magazine sometime in the late 1980’s, under the name of "icky sticky toffee pudding". A well known Sydney chef put it on her dessert menu around the same time and the rest is history. It was an instant hit and it still remains on some good menus around town to this day. As an indicator of how popular this dessert is, a diner ordered our semolina and toffee pudding last weekend and expressed disappointment that it wasn’t "that toffee pudding"
So what makes it so good? Is it the dates? Everyone seems to love these sugar laden treats of the palm. But it could be the rich and dense texture of the pudding itself, which just sticks to your ribs, screaming sweet goodness. Or perhaps it is the heady toffee sauce that is poured, hot and bubbling, over the steaming pudding. My guess is it is a combination of the three.
Hungry yet? Well good, because not only is this pudding quasi-legendary, but it is easy enough for the keen kitchen novice to make, you don’t even need to separate the eggs. Trust me, make this pudding once and you will be hooked for life.
250 gm (1/2 lb) pitted, dried dates, roughly chopped
300 ml (1 1/4 cups) water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100 gm (3 oz) unsalted butter, softened
250 gm (1/2 lb) caster sugar
250 gm (1/2 lb) self raising flour (or 250 gm all purpose flour, mixed with 1 tsp baking powder)
1 tsp vanilla essence
375 gm (3/4 lb) unsalted butter, diced
500 gm (1 lb) soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
450 ml (1 3/4 cups) thickened (whipping) cream (35 % butterfat)
For the pudding, mix together the butter, sugar and vanilla, then beat until it is pale and creamy. This is best done in an electric mixmaster, but if you have a strong arm, go ahead. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well after adding each egg. Gently fold in the flour until well incorporated. Bring the water to the boil and add the dates. Add the bicarbonate of soda and immediately remove from the heat. Cool slightly, then add to the pudding mix. Combine well. Grease an 8 x 10 inch cake tin and pour in the pudding mix. Place in a pre-heated 180 °C (360 °F) oven for 40 minutes. Test with a skewer, it will come out clean when cooked
To make the toffee sauce, add all the ingredients to a saucepan and heat gently. Stir well as it heats, as it can separate easily. Once the sauce has melted and looks smooth, it is done – don’t over heat, or else it will split on you.
Remove the pudding from the cake tin and cut into large squares. Pour over the warm toffee sauce, then garnish with some softly whipped cream, Try not to think of your cardiologist, trust me.