Sticky Toffee Pudding

Ben requested an amazing dessert for his birthday cake this year.  I expected him to ask for Tiramisu but he remembered how much he liked this, so when we had him and his wife over for a birthday dinner, I made Sticky Toffee Pudding.  It is a traditional dessert in England but graced our Texas table just fine!  Easy to make, rich and gooey – try it when you have guests for dinner, or on a holiday buffet.  The individual portions make it simple to serve, but make more than you think you need. Someone just might eat two!   My recipe is adapted from several sources, including www.chow.com

Sticky Toffee Pudding

1 ¼ cup dates (no need to chop whole dates – now small packets  of  chopped   dates are available in the dried fruit section of your supermarket)

1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups flour

8 Tablespoons softened butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

                Toffee Sauce

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick)

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped

1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 8 (6-ounce) ramekins or mini Bundt muffin pan with butter and flour or spray with baking spray. Combine dates, water, and baking soda in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Put salt and flour in a bowl, stir with a fork, and set aside.

Heat a medium pot of water to use for water bath.

Combine butter and brown sugar; using an electric mixer, beat for several minutes. Add vanilla extract, then add eggs one at a time. Stir in dates and flour mixture.Divide batter evenly among prepared ramekins and set into two baking dishes. Pour simmering water into the bottom of the baking dishes until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully place baking dishes on the center rack of the oven. Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. During baking, you can make the sauce.

                                                                 Toffee sauce:

Melt butter over medium heat. When it foams, add brown sugar and vanilla extract or seeds, stir and heat until bubbling and turns the color of maple syrup, about 5 minutes. Add cream in a slow stream while stirring. Cook until the sauce bubbles up, about 2 minutes.

When the cakes are finished, remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. Once the cakes are cooled enough to handle, loosen with a knife run around the edges and invert to remove to serving plate. Serve warm, with warm toffee sauce drizzled over the top.

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