If you’re looking for something off the beaten path (i.e. not chocolate) for your Valentine, I’d recommend these sticky toffee puddings. Fans of British food will know that “pudding” means “dessert,” and not necessarily the custards we call pudding on this side of the pond. This is my family’s favorite pudding, and whenever we’re in the UK, we eat far too many of these. Before I made these myself, I wondered what the secret ingredient was in making these puddings so sticky and moist. Turns out, it’s dates. These are sometimes available in restaurants in the US, where I’ve seen it on menus as “sticky date cake,” which takes away all the mystery. To further increase your British food vocabulary, take a look at my glossary, in which I illuminate the enigmatic Spotted Dick and other curiosities of the English larder.
Individual Sticky Toffee Puddings
Yield: 18-24 muffin-style puddings, depending on the size of your muffin tins
2 cups (10 ounces) pitted dates
2 2/3 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 ¾ cups self-rising flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1. Combine dates and water in a 1-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Let cool to room temperature.
2. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400. Grease 18 muffin tins.
3. Beat butter and brown sugar in bowl with an electric mixer, until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, scraping down the bowl after each egg. Stir in vanilla, then flour.
4. Add baking soda to date mixture and process in food processor. The mixture will be very wet. Add to butter mixture and stir until combined. Divide batter into muffin tins, filling ¾ full.
5. Place muffin tins on baking sheet and bake 15 to 20 minutes, using the toothpick test – a toothpick (or a bamboo skewer) inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool puddings in tins for a few minutes, then turn out on a wire rack.
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 oz. heavy cream
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and butter, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Gradually incorporate cream, using a whisk, until mixture is thick and creamy.
2. Serve toffee sauce over individual puddings.
Adapted from A Cook and Her Books, who had the brilliant idea to bake these into individual servings, from an original recipe in the Gourmet Cookbook. I’ve reduced the cream in the toffee sauce from the original 6 oz to make it stickier and more like the versions I’ve had in the UK.