"Life without pudding is unthinkable."
And, there you have it. My inspiration from Nigel Slater's, Eating for England, would have to be pudding. His firmly tongue-in-cheek book of essays on the food quirks of that nation, is our current Cook the Books Club selection. Our assignment was to read the book, and then to cook and post about something it inspired.
This is not your pick up, and can't stop reading thriller, or romance novel. It can be read between those sorts of books very easily. Taken up and put down at leisure. A selection of stand alone, funny vignettes and little rants on the quirks, habits, and treasured food traditions of Britain, it is a loosely informative, enjoyable romp. We learn such things as the usefulness of the Aga (mainly for making proper toast and keeping the dog warm), what makes a perfect Welsh Rarebit, the erotic appeal of a Cadbury's Flake, and the history and social indications of Trifle. Good fun throughout.
I especially enjoyed Slater's dissertation on Boiled Brussels Sprouts, since Bob has just laid down the law around here, insisting they be boiled or steamed only. None of that roasted, caramelized bunk. Which, personally I don't really care, I just let him eat them ALL.
Epicurious over a year ago, meaning to make it, so the section entitled, "Dick and Other Delights", was the prod needed to locate and just do it. Dick there is referring to a famous pudding, "Spotted Dick", which in some circles has been renamed Richard, for political correctness. And, the spots, it turns out, are raisins in an otherwise light colored cake. Also, we learn that pudding, in England, is synonymous for dessert.
For my version, instead of using only dates, I improvised with a combination of dried cherries, figs, dates and raisins. Also, instead of water, called for in the sauce, I used dark rum. And, liked it a lot.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
From Epicurious Recipes
* 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing pan (I would do only 1/2 stick for the sauce part next time)
* 1 cup flour
* 1 1/2 teas. baking powder
* 1 cup pitted dates (5 oz), finely chopped (I used a combination of dates, figs, cherries and raisins)
* 1/3 cup dark rum
* 1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
* 1 large egg
* pinch salt
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8- by 2-inch round cake pan. I used a square glass one and don't think it matters a bit.
Simmer dried fruits in 1 cup water in a 1-quart heavy saucepan, covered, until soft, about 5 minutes. Let stand, covered, off heat 5 minutes.
Beat together 1 stick butter and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in egg until combined. Add flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt and mix at low speed until just combined. Add dates and mix until just combined well.
Pour batter into pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt remaining stick butter (you might want to cut this down to 1/2 stick) in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in remaining cup brown sugar, rum, and a pinch of salt. Boil over moderately high heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and sauce is reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, 2 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and cover.
Transfer pudding in pan to a rack and poke all over at 1-inch intervals with a chopstick. Gradually pour half of warm sauce evenly over hot pudding. Let stand until almost all of sauce is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
Cooks' note: Pudding, soaked with half of sauce, can stand at room temperature up to 2 hours. Reheat in pan in a 300°F oven 10 minutes. Warm remaining sauce before pouring over pudding. Can be served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, clotted cream or, as I did with full cream yogurt. This is is truly a sweet, gooy, sticky delight, which we all enjoyed. How could I serve pudding without having grand kids over?