I love cookbooks. I really do. I have a fat stack of them in my kitchen, and I use them more than most people probably do. They have pretty pictures, and nice indexes, and they can also be used to even out table legs and hit people on the backside of their heads. Cookbooks are fun. BUT many times I prefer using recipes I find online. Why? The human element and feedback. Which is one of the main reasons I started this blog - to share my insights on the recipes I tried.
My experience making this sticky toffee pudding is a great example. I’ve never made sticky toffee pudding (a traditional Irish/English dessert), but decided to tackle it for the birthday of a good friend who really loves it. If I had followed the instructions in the original recipe (in The New Irish Table, which has been my go-to lately) to the letter, I think the dish would have been a failure – the sauce would have been way, way too thin. And the thick, rich, buttery sauce was the star of the show. And now I can share how to make it properly with you all.
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
The original recipe says to combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat (stirring constantly), then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the sauce has reduced to about 3 ½ cups.
5 to 7 minutes was a gross underestimation. It took 45 minutes of babying the sauce over medium low heat for it to reduce down to 3 ½ cups of glorious, buttery toffee. I made the sauce significantly ahead of time (maybe 6 hours) and refrigerated it uncovered, and just reheated it before putting the rest of the dish together.
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 ¼ cups pitted and chopped Medjool dates
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 sticks (1 cup) softened unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
Once I was ready to make the cake portion of the dish, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and greased up a large bundt pan. I added the water, dates and baking soda to a small saucepan and brought it just to a boil over medium heat, which was just enough time to transform it into a hot, sugary, syrupy mixture. I set it aside to cool.
I combined the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl, then set it aside, and beat the softened butter and sugar together in my Kitchen Aid mixer for about 5 minutes, until it was fluffy and had lightened up in color (pale yellow). Keeping the mixer running, I added the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, then half the flour mixture.
Finally, I added the cooled date mixture and the remaining flour mixture to the mixer bowl, mixed thoroughly, and poured the batter into the greased bundt pan.
I baked the cake for about 45 minutes, until golden brown. I then poured about half the toffee sauce over the cake and continued baking for about 15 minutes. Once the baking was done, I let the cake cool for a bit, then inverted it onto a serving plate, cut it into slices, and slathered on the rest of the toffee sauce.
In spite of the instructions, my first attempt at sticky toffee pudding turned out pretty well. So the moral of the story here is, trust your instincts. If following the instructions in a recipe produces a result that seems/tastes wrong, do what your heart tells you. I did, and was rewarded with buttery toffee goodness!