Sunday, May 21, 2006

When Life Gives You Dates, Make Sticky Toffee Pudding

Mom was given a box of dried dates from a mystery guest at her house. She brought them to a family dinner and attempted to get rid of them by telling all of us of the alleged delicious properties of dates. No one appeared to buy it. We joked that whoever had given the dates to Mom had received them as a gift and was passing them along—similar to the traditional Christmas fruitcake. Being the lover of food that I am and attempting to show my knowledge of it in general (even though I’ve had limited exposure to dates), I too tried to convince my siblings that they should try the dates—after all, dates are used in Middle Eastern cooking and we love that cuisine. It was unanimously decided (well, I didn’t have a vote) that I would be the lucky recipient of the dates. I took them home determined that I would make something tasty out of them (even though I had my doubts). I remembered eating an English pudding once that I vaguely recalled consisted of dates. Ah, the beauty of the internet, and voilà, I found a recipe for sticky toffee pudding. It’s a delicious date cake (yes, I said delicious) that is topped with a toffee (or caramel) sauce. Served warm with vanilla ice cream, it becomes a tasty temptation. And who knew such a treat could come from a rejected box of old dried dates?

The Recipe (I’m giving you the altered recipe—I change recipes as I’m making them. The original that I found can be located at www.cooksrecipes.com).

1 cup finely chopped pitted dates
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup softened butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Toffee Sauce:
6 tablespoons butter
10 tablespoons light brown sugar
¼ cup half and half

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease/flour a 9X13 pan with Baker’s Joy. Place the dates in a small bowl and cover with thee boiling water; mix in the baking soda and vanilla; set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking soda; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and mix well. Stir in the flour mixture and mix well. Last, but not least, add the date mixture and mix well. Pour batter in prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

To make the toffee sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the sugar and half and half. Simmer gently for 3 minutes. Poke the top of the hot pudding with the tines of a serving fork and pour the sauce on top. Place under a hot broiler until it bubbles. Take care, as it burns easily.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Yields 10-12 servings.

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