At your local pub you can rely on a few solid menu staples. Whether it’s sausage and mash, a chunky burger or steak and chips you know the kind of company you’ll be keeping with your pint. We are very lucky where we live in Stroud Green that we have two or three very good pubs which we can go to for a quick Saturday lunch, a slap up Sunday Roast or a mid-week life saver when we are both weary and want to sit down with a glass of wine and a quick supper to share our day’s news.
The sticky toffee pudding is one of the most prevalent stalwarts of the local English pub and can reliably be found propping up the odd Eton mess or cheesecake on the dessert menu. Last week I steamed a traditional suet pudding, bringing a centuries old recipe to the table, but today I wanted to pay homage to the new British classic. You would be forgiven, due to its ubiquity, for thinking that the sticky toffee pudding has been around since the Roman invasion. In fact it was only created in the 1970s by Francis Coulson to serve at The Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel in the Lake District. There is not much about this pudding I can tell you that you won’t already know; plump dates are added to a slightly spiced cake batter and drenched with a rich toffee sauce. I think you would be hard pressed to find any Englishman worth his salt who hasn’t partaken of the sticky toffee at the end of a hearty pub meal.
The only problem with our obsession with sticky toffee pudding is that it can be leaned on too much, with little room given to any other dessert options. Until recently I hadn’t bothered ordering a sticky toffee pudding for a few years, to say this particular pudding had been worn into the ground I had considered an understatement, especially since so many pubs serve a version which can only be described as subpar. I didn’t think there was much more this dessert could offer me and I was longing for a shake up of this national institution.
However, last week I had a sticky toffee pudding at the Victoria Stakes at the bottom of Muswell Hill and it reminded me how comforting and homely it can be and immediately made me want to try my hand at home. This is always the sign that I have had a good meal. It’s St Patricks Day today so I wanted to Irish it up a bit. The Baileys is welcomed into this pudding like a long lost relative, giving even more creamy stickiness to the dates and as it peps up the toffee sauce it also removes some of the inherent sickliness. There is only one accompaniment to this pudding in my eyes and that is the best vanilla ice cream you can get hold of.
Sticky Toffee and Baileys Pudding
Adapted from Rachel Allen’s Sticky Toffee Pudding from Bake
225g medjool dates (stoned weight)
100g unsalted butter, softened
175g golden caster sugar
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp allspice
large pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g plain flour
1¼ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the sauce:
Adapted from Felicity Cloake’s How to Make the Perfect Sticky Toffee Pudding on the Guardian online
115g unsalted butter
75g golden syrup
40g dark muscovado sugar
140ml double cream
- Remove the stones from the centre of the dates and chop roughly, or whizz up in a food processor for 10 seconds or so.
- Place the chopped dates in a medium saucepan with the Baileys. Heat gently until the Baileys is just getting hot and remove from the heat. Stir the dates around, then set aside for at least 2 hours for the dates to swell and soften in the Baileys.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease and line a 20x20cm square cake tin.
- Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Then mix in the spices and vanilla.
- Fold in the date mixture.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, then fold into the rest of the ingredients.
- Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 35-40mins until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- To make the sauce put the butter, golden syrup and muscovado sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer for about 3-4mins.
- On a very low heat pour in the cream and the Baileys. Stir through, then heat through for a minute or two just to take the sharp edge off the Baileys.
- Pour over the warm sticky toffee pudding and serve.