Chocolate & Spice

chocolate, spice and the other pleasures in life

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It's begining to look a lot like Christmas!

I must say that a pudding for dessert isn't the best idea after an indulgent weekend away in Daylesford and eating at the Lake House or when the weather is in the high 30's as its been this week. Still, we're looking at the run-up to Christmas and what better way then to get into the mood with a pre-Christmas pudding! I missed out on getting some beautifully produced puddings from A Pud for All Seasons, both at the Slow Food Market (at the Abbotsford Convent a couple of weekends ago) as well as when we went up country for the weekend and passed by their factory at Elphinstone. So I decided to make my own seeing that I had a bag of dates in the pantry and a recipe flagged for some time to try!

A and I both have a fond weakness for sweet sticky desserts and sticky date pudding happens to be one of our favourites. I've always thought that there was something Christmassy about having a date pudding – with all that lovely caramelized and slightly spicy overtones it connotes!

I thought dates and it's lovely sweet nuances would definitely put us in the mood for all the gift-wrapping after dinner and happily set to making it seeing I had just 16 more days till we leave Melbourne and a whole bag-ful to finish up. Yummy goodness and perfect comfort food, it's perhaps a tad heavy for a summer evening seeing that all the berries and stone fruits have come into season. But making a sticky date pudding is also an exercise in simplicity and will keep nicely in the fridge for those tricky moments between meals when one's tummy craves for a little sustenance.

A is of course thrilled that I have finally decided to make a sticky date pudding and that must have been the reason why he returned earlier than expected with a "Pudding...where's the pudding?" instead of the expected kiss on the cheek!

This recipe comes from a fabulous cookbook, The Cook's Companion, by Melbourne's doyen of cooking, Stephanie Alexander.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
(serves 8)

170g dates, stoned and chopped
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
300ml boiling water
60g unsalted butter
¾ cup castor or brown sugar
2 eggs
170g self-raising flour
½ tsp pure vanilla
** 100g dark chocolate chips/ chopped bittersweet chocolate (optional)

400g brown sugar
1 cup thick cream
250g unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split

1. Preheat oven to 180'C and butter an 18cm square cake tin.
2. Mix dates and bicarbonate of sofa. Pour over water and leave to stand.
3. Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Fold flour in gently, then stir in date mixture and vanilla and pour into prepared tin.
4. Bake in centre of oven for 30 – 40 minutes until cooked when tested with a sker.
5. To make the sauce, bring all the ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove vanilla bean.
6. Pour a little sauce over warm pudding and return it to oven for 2-3 minutes so sauce soaks in.
7. Cut pudding into squares and pass extra sauce.

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