Thursday Night Smackdown: I'm a grown up and I do what I want

And that includes eating Sticky Toffee Pudding for dinner. Which I just did, and I could not possibly be less sorry. In fact, I’m feeling so magnanimous after eating it that I’m willing to overlook the ridiculous length of this book’s title AND the fact that (as listed on Amazon) it has TWO COLONS: Desserts by the Yard: From Brooklyn to Beverly Hills: Recipes from the Sweetest Life Ever, by Sherry Yard (GET IT?), official pastry chef of Wolfgang Puck’s Spago empire.

I Wonder: Are all the colons necessary?: A grammatical conundrum: That I can top: Suck on that.

Wow, when you exaggerate it like that it almost becomes poetry. Really terrible poetry.

I couldn’t find any decent dates, so I used these scraps of bark.

I’ve never actually had sticky toffee pudding before tonight except in the Haagen Dazs Sticky Toffee Pudding ice cream, which I think is sweet enough to eat through a sheet of solid steel in under a minute, and yet I’ve long been firmly convinced that I love it. And then I read the recipe through and discovered that it’s filled with dates, which I’m not fond of (where “not fond” = “yuck”), and was still convinced that I love it. I mean, just look at the words: Sticky. Toffee. Pudding.* I’m pretty much sold on anything with “toffee” in the name. Surely, the dish must be at least as good as its individual parts, if not greater than.

I dutifully chopped my dates – Sherry Yard suggests medjool, PathMark suggests SunMaid – poured some boiling water over them and went downstairs to watch The Office for half an hour.

*Alternatively: Sticky: Toffee: Pudding.**

**I feel like there just haven’t been enough asides lately.

The shredded carrot also adds a unique flavor.

Somehow, I managed to miss the end, so I don’t know what Pam said when Jim told her he’d bought his parents’ house for them. Whatever it was, I’m sure it was Madcap! and Zany!

I gave the soaking dates a sound mashing into the hot water and mixed in some baking soda and let them sit a little longer while I started the batter. And I gotta tell you, I’ve never used one of my own pictures as a Frig? but semi-liquid mashed dates that are bubbling ever so slightly are a prime candidate. I’ll surprise you one day.

The batter had plenty of brown sugar for a nice deep sweetness and two little extra flavor boosts whose origins I’m not sure of; I don’t know if hints of orange and coffee are traditional to sticky toffee pudding or whether they’re Sherry Yard twists. I’m sure someone will soon set me straight.

You know, maybe the reason I think I like it is because it’s just plain fun to say. Sticky toffee pudding. Sticky toffee pudding. Sticky toffee pudding. It makes me feel British, like I want to get my wellies and the pram and go for a stroll on the moors, wot wot. And I don’t even have a baby. Maybe I could keep snacks in the pram or something.

It’s accidental that the date mixture is shrouded in mystery here, but I think it’s probably better that way.

The date mixture and flour went into the butter, sugar and eggs in alternate stages, until I had a smooth, semi-thick batter studded through with little bits of not-quite-mashed up date.

I got one of those bits when I licked the beater – whatever, I know you do it too – and was still not a fan of the date. I put my trust and faith in the baking process, and in the ladleful of toffee sauce I planned to spoon over my serving.

Exhibit A: The unpleasant bits in question.

Into a Corningware dish that looks like a giant ramekin (my compromise, since Sherry suggests either individual eight-ounce ramekins or one nine-inch cake pan), into the oven for 50 minutes, and it was time for toffee sauce and the beginning of ER. Yes, some of us still watch ER. No, we can’t explain why.

Date insurance.*

I’d thought the toffee sauce would be more like a traditional caramel but with dark brown sugar replacing the white; the ingredient list was certainly similar enough: sugar, cream, a bit of butter, some corn syrup for crystallization insurance and a vanilla pod and seeds. I like the chicken aspect of making caramel, of seeing how long I can let the color deepen before I dump in the cream, as well as the ensuing frantic bubbling and spattering that follows.

Sherry’s toffee is sedate in comparison. Everything goes into the pot at once, is brought to a simmer, and cooks for 10 or 15 minutes till it coats the back of a spoon. No daredevil timing. No liquid hot sugar magma. No potential for third-degree facial burns, no need for protective eye-wear. LAME.

*If only there were such a thing, but for actual dates: “That sucked, and I’d like those three hours of my life back, please.” Blind date insurance would reimburse double.

Would you mind terribly socking it to me?

The cake came out of the oven with quite a noticeable dent in the center. I chose to see it not as a flaw, but as a receptacle for more toffee sauce. I poked the cake liberally with a wooden skewer and poured most of the sauce on, retaining a little for plating. It soaked in almost immediately, leaving a thick glassy coat on the cake’s surface.

It was right at this point that actual dinner – pizza – arrived at the door, so I guess I could have eaten that first and then had this for dessert, as nature and Sherry Yard doubtlessly intended. But I like to exercise my grown-up prerogative sometimes (it often manifests as eating foodstuffs at inappropriate times, like a bag of Honey Mustard and Onion pretzel bits for breakfast), so I plated up and dug in.

Admit it, you are totally jealous.

To my generous scoop of pudding I added an additional spoonful of toffee sauce, some barely sweetened cream whipped with a touch of orange oil to pick up the undertones in the pudding, and a bit of orange zest included solely to keep the photo from looking like a bowl of dog food.

As it turns out, I was so, so right about loving sticky toffee pudding. This is some seriously good shit. Sweet, yes, but a lovely deep caramelly-molassesy almost exotic sweetness. The offending date bits had totally melted away into the pudding, creating a dense, wonderfully moist cake. The warm sauce bound everything together and added a layer of impossible richness, while the cream was a nice counterpoint. I LOVE STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING, and I predict that I will need to stop myself from eating the leftovers for breakfast instead of the pretzel bits.

Final Score: Us 1, Food ZERO POINT ZERO.

21 thoughts on “Thursday Night Smackdown: I'm a grown up and I do what I want

  1. Wait! On two counts: I still haven’t watched the latest The Office: re: the ending; and I still haven’t tasted STP (ew, isn’t that a brand of motor oil?): ice cream or real thing. (Dots’re making me dizzy) But I’m not a date-hater: I’ve just never cooked with them before: freaks me out a bit. But I think I’ll give it a shot (as it is the holiday season), using another book to compare. Well done Michelle!
    By the way: never a bad time to eat honey mustard and onion pretzel bits ;)

  2. WOW! I was wondering what to make for Thanksgiving dessert. I need to look no more. That looks incredible. I would have had that for dinner too and breakfast and if any left over…

  3. Sticky Date Pudding (as its known here) is loved by all. it has been known to reform date haters. I made these in cupcake form a while ago. The icing had everything you were looking for in a caramel sauce.

    Sticky date is acceptable at any time of day :D

    Now please excuse me whilst I eat my screen

  4. Oh, gawd. I loooove sticky toffee pudding, but the only one I’ve had was at Blue Smoke, so probably no points for authenticity. But it’s delicious enough that I get it every single time I go, which is no small thing after polishing off ribs and brisket and mac & cheese. Good work!

  5. I, too, was convinced of my deep love for Sticky Toffee Pudding by Hagen-Dasz. We went in search of the ice cream after watching the show on Food Network about the contest the year it won. After inhaling a pint (each), hubby and I determined that stuff is WAY too dangerous to keep in the house.

    So, I made actual Sticky Toffee Pudding. Mine didn’t look quite as rich and fabulous as yours, though – I may have to keep looking for a better recipe.

  6. I feel very British just reading this post! I am jealous, and in order to solve my envy- I will have to make this for myself in the large dish and eat the whole thing. So there- see who is jealous now, you made yours in smaller dishes and had to share. I watch ER also….

  7. I had sticky toffee pudding once a long time ago and have never forgotten it. Christmas Eve dessert is looking a whole lot more interesting thanks to you and the disappearing dates!

  8. Trader Joe’s sold Sticky Toffee Pudding for a very brief time. Fortunately, it was discontinued shortly after I bought one to test it out. It was amazing. And dangerous. Mmmm.

  9. i love the stuff too. my bff angela hates dates as well and i made this for her and well, it was love all around. but that was years ago. so rich and sweet and that name…. i am salivating at the thought. the orange – perfect touch. yes, very very jealous…….

  10. I had no idea that dates are in sticky toffee pudding. It sure sounds good otherwise. And I also still watch ER. Last night’s creeped me out. And at the end of The Office, Pam was happy about the house.

  11. Forget pizza. Sticky Date Pudding is the way to go.

    The topping was always my favorite part… and seriously, your version makes me want to purchase that cookbook and make that right now.

    (works with Sunmaid Dates? Hot. I enjoy recipes that are made of stuff I can get a Pathmark)

  12. manggy, definitely give it a try – so, so good, and very holiday-y.

    judy, i can personally vouch that it makes an excellent breakfast.

    amy, if you had it at blue smoke, then it couldn’t be all bad.

    drool…blue smoke.

    trillian, take a look at this book next time your in a bookstore and give this version a try. or google it, i bet the actual recipe is floating around somewhere. they all are.

    kim, it was a large dish, all right – a 9 inch round corningware that just looked like a little ramekin. sharing pudding is not one of my strong points.

    claudia, the orange was really nice, esp with the addition of the hint of orange oil in the whipped cream. we brought the leftovers to my in-laws and left them there, and now i’m kicking myself.

    kelly anne, i can only imagine how much better it would have been with good dates, but the sunmaids made quite a respectable showing.

  13. Looks delicious.

    Grammatically speaking, double colons in one sentence are almost always incorrect. One can’t demand multiple pauses of that length without a full stop. One of the colons ought to be a period, if such stops are demanded, or more realistically a comma, if only small pauses are required.

    The sad truth as pointed out by Lynne Truss of Eats, Shoots and Leaves fame, is that rather than trying to be grammatically correct, advertisers have latched on to punctuation as a sales tool. As in, “Let’s put another colon in the title. It will look cool and really break things up visually.”

    The more I text and email, the harder I find the trend toward grammatical slovenliness to resist. I am glad you called’em out on this one. Keep up the good work.

  14. aaron, i deeply appreciate your shared abhorrence of poor grammar and unnecessary colons. i can barely call out all the people who end sentences in prepositions, let along deal with this double-colon bullshit.

  15. Pingback: thursday night smackdown » Liveblogging Top Chef Just Desserts: Episode 5

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