April 23rd is England’s neglected national day, St George’s Day. When I saw that Sam of Becks and Posh was hosting a one-off event called Fish and Quips, just the title drew my interest. The theme of showcasing good British cooking is a winner.
Along with things like the traditional Afternoon (not High) Tea, with its cucumber tea sandwiches, small tarts, and rich scones slathered with clotted cream and jam, other sweet foods came to mind. There is the classic Victoria Cake, with sponge cake, jam and whipped cream, and the traditional trifle with sponge cake, jam, brandy, custard and whipped cream. (Are we seeing a pattern here?) Well, one thing is for certain, the Brits know a thing or two about sweets.
Originally I was looking for a recipe for Spotted Dick, a steamed pudding mentioned often in the O'Brian novels about Captain Aubrey and Dr. Maturin during the Napoleonic Wars. It seems to be a favorite dessert. Unfortunately, once I found the recipe, it sounded too sweet for even my overdeveloped sweet tooth.
Then I remembered a dish I enjoyed at a Father's Day meal years ago at Doce Lunas Restaurant east of Santa Rosa. It was Sticky Toffee Pudding, a sponge pudding that has a lot of dates in it, along with molasses and Golden Syrup. Well, the Golden Syrup in the recipe decided it. Golden Syrup is a golden pure cane syrup and is a British treasure. I also bake Anzac cookies using this lovely syrup as a key ingredient.
The pudding itself is moist, sweet and mellow. The sauce that goes with it is a sort of caramel sauce and it uses more of the Golden Syrup. The brand I use is called Lyles and it can sometimes be found in the market with other British imports. I combined elements from three different recipes. One had the size pan I wanted to use, another used the Golden Syrup, and another used some molasses, too. I don't know of a good substitute for Golden Syrup if you can't find it. Karo dark is nothing like it, although it might be the closest regular American grocery item.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
For the Pudding:
5 oz. dates, pits removed, chopped
1 cup hot water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon, self-rising flour
For the toffee sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter an 8-inch square cake pan.
Heat the water in a small pot, add the chopped dates and the baking soda. Let stand while you prepare the butter, sugar, egg mixture.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. I use an electric stand mixer.
Add the molasses, golden syrup and mix well. Scrape the bowl and beaters.
Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well.
Add the flour on low speed, then increase to medium to combine. Add the dates mixture and mix well. The mixture will be somewhat thin and curdled looking. That's OK.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Place into the oven and bake 35-40 minutes, or until cooked through. Top will be springly when touched.
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and golden syrup. Mix well. Add the whipping cream and mix to thoroughly combine. Simmer for five to ten minutes to thicken slightly.
To serve, spoon out a portion of the pudding into a shallow bowl and pour over some of the hot toffee sauce.