While I was at Ballymaloe Cookery School, I lived with three guys and a girl in an ivy-covered farmhouse straight out of the Shire. We quickly grew into a bizarre, dysfunctional, but genuinely loving family. A family who knew just how to push each other's buttons.
Inevitably, my roommate Matt ended up being my partner in the kitchen one week. If you want to test the limits of friendship, just take two hyper-competitive roommates with a bratty sibling relationship, then ask them to share a kitchen station for a few more hours each day. Somehow we made it through the week with our friendship intact, but not without a few scuffles along the way.
One day we were assigned to make sticky toffee pudding. ALL I wanted to do was make sticky toffee pudding. I wanted to lick the bowl. But for some reason, Matt ended up getting to make the pudding, while I made burgers or something. So I was a little peeved.
Matt is a perfectionist. He can't stand when things go awry in the kitchen. He really can't stand when things go awry and I make fun of him for it. Which, like any good sister, I always made a special point to do. So when Matt dropped an entire egg, shell and all, into the stand mixer, instantly ruining his delicious sticky toffee pudding batter, I was the first and loudest to laugh. He was not pleased.
But karma kicked in. I ended up getting sick later that day, and spent the next 48 hours in a haze of fever and bed.
You know when you're sick, and you haven't eaten in days, and all you want is sugar? Well, guess what I found sitting on the counter the first time I had the energy to leave the couch. Sticky toffee pudding. Matt's resurrected sticky toffee pudding. Dark. Gleaming. Perfect.
I'm pretty sure I ate the whole sticky toffee pudding that day. And did Matt ever complain? Did Matt rip on me for demolishing a whole cake? His infamous, made-it-twice cake? He did not. He told me he was glad I was feeling better, and he missed me in the kitchen that day. And that's why today's sticky toffee pudding is my ode to Matt.
I replaced the coffee in the original recipe with whiskey. Because while Matt couldn't be relied upon to buy coffee, you could always lean on him for a little Jameson. And I added a little extra salt, because he deserved to be salty with me.
Ballymaloe Sticky Toffee Pudding
Yield: Serves 8-10
Prep Time: 30 min Cook Time: 90 min Total Time: 2 hours
8 oz / 225g dried dates, chopped fine
1 1/4 cups / 300ml black tea
4 oz / 110g unsalted butter
4 oz /110g Muscovado or dark brown sugar
8 oz / 225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs whiskey (or 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp Espresso powder)
Hot Toffee Sauce
4 oz / 110g butter
8 oz / 225g Muscavado or dark brown sugar
8 oz / 225mL heavy cream
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
Optional: Whipped cream for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes.
Line the bottom and sides of a 8" square (20.5cm) spring form or heavy cake tin with parchment paper, or grease and flour the tin if you are using something round.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. A stand mixer or cake beaters would be ideal. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the flour.
Add the baking soda, salt and whiskey to the date and tea mixture. (At this point I whizzed it up in a food processor because I forgot to chop the dates. If you want a finer texture, this could be a good step for you too).
Combine the date mixture with the rest of the batter. Pour into the lined tin and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean.
To make the sauce: Put the butter and sugar into a heavy saucepan and melt on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and slowly add the cream, vanilla and salt. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes more.
To Serve: Pour some hot sauce on to a serving plate. Put the sticky toffee pudding on top, pour lots more sauce over the top. Put the remainder into a bowl, and serve with the pudding along with whipped cream.