Dessert first please! And the rest will fall into place. When planning my menus for dinners I am usually the type who starts with dessert. The sweeter side of life and the best first has been somewhat of a motto for me. It probably goes back to the days I was training in a pastry kitchen.
Working in a large hotel kitchen was always fast paced and extremely exciting. The adrenaline buzz I got was immense and the high that the hustle and bustle usually gave me would keep me alive and agile for hours.
In the pastry kitchen, however, the pace was different and the adrenaline worked in various ways. Artists came together to work on individual masterpieces made of sugar, chocolate, flour and butter, creating a canvas colored with rich, vibrant and exotic sweet treats to capture the fancy of any sweet tooth.
Christmas was a special time in the pastry kitchen and I often felt Santa and his elves would have been envious of the commotion we caused in the kitchen during this festive time. Sure Santa brings toys for the children amongst us, but we were creating sinfully decadent desserts and bringing them to all living on the sweeter side of life.
How could Santa not be jealous? We came in early morning to the aromas of vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, bitter almond, saffron and everyday we worked with butter, chocolate, flour, sugar, and eggs making, luscious mousse, cakes, cookies, puddings and pastries. Picking the best ingredients to make supreme creations the adrenaline worked its magic on many levels.
What I loved about the pastry kitchen at the Sheraton in Doha was the magnificent influences from various parts of the world. The desserts of an entire world were created everyday in a sweet cosmos of a large squarish room tucked away in the back of a massive maze like main kitchen of a busy resort hotel.
I learnt about the decadent desserts of the world and studied with fervor, practicing and experimenting. I still do that today.
I was never much for the typical British pudding. In my opinion there were far more exciting desserts for me to discover. Then I discovered the ONE. The one Brit. Pud for me. Made of sweet dates, sprinkled with enticing spices and drizzled with a sticky toffee sauce – the Sticky Toffee Pudding was my pudding hero.
It was a start to a new discovery and I embarked on a journey, tasting and testing a variety of British puddings.
While Great Britain boasts of a plethora of traditional puddings from sweet to savory, it is probably the mere mention of a sticky toffee pudding that will get the juices in the mouth flowing. It truly is one of the stars of British cuisine.
Francis Coulson, chef and owner of the Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel, in England’s Lake District, popularized the sticky toffee pudding in the early 1960. Today, the sticky toffee pudding is found on menus in restaurants throughout the U.K. From the humblest cafeterias to the finest restaurants, each has a delectable recipe to tempt their guests with.
Chefs in Great Britain are giving the traditional pudding a facelift, with innovative ideas like this exquisite Christmas pudding created by Michelin star chef Heston Blumenthal. The Christmas pudding encases a whole candied orange and has quickly become the star amongst Christmas puddings. So much so that it seems Waitrose did not expect such a run on this creation and the Hidden Orange Pudding is running out. Apparently one can still buy some on e-bay for £129.
Jamie and I got lucky! While we were in London last month visiting Jeanne, we had the opportunity to indulge in this decadent dessert. Jeanne had received a box of the pudding and after a delicious meal of chili and cornbread we cut out generous portions and enjoyed it with scoops of vanilla ice-cream.
Well if you missed out on getting your Christmas pudding or are not to pleased by the thought of spending such a large sum of money on dessert, Kavey of Kavey Eats did us the great favor of testing several Christmas puddings available in the UK – it’s an awesome read!
Or you can allow me to cajole you into the sticky toffee pudding.
Sticky Toffee Pudding is a light, moist cake flavored with chopped sticky dates and vanilla, which is then served warm, soaked in a sticky toffee sauce made of butter, cream and brown sugar.
If you can buy Medjool dates, they are soft, sticky and full of intensive flavor that resembles toffee.
In other words – heaven!
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Printable version of recipe here
200g dried Medjool dates , stoned and chopped
175g all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon ground mixed spices. I used ground allspice, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves.
85g butter , softened
175g brown sugar
2 eggs , beaten
For the toffee sauce
100g muscovado sugar
14oml heavy cream
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Butter an ovenproof dish or individual ramekin bowls.
- Put the dates in a bowl with the bicarbonate of soda and cover with 200ml of boiling water. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes to soften, then drain.
Process the dates in a food processer to a thick purée.
- Beat the butter and brown sugar together with electric beaters until pale, thick and creamy, then beat in the eggs, flour, baking powder and spices. Fold in the date mixture and pour into the buttered ovenproof dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is springy and just firm to touch.
- In the meantime make the toffee sauce by putting the muscovado sugar, butter and cream in a saucepan over low heat and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Cook until the sauce takes on a divine toffee color. Cut the pudding into squares, or turn the pudding out on plates if baked in individual bowls. Drizzle with the warm sauce and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Rich, sticky, sweet and incredibly addictive – the components that make a dessert memorable. I know there are a few who will share my sentiments. I love the concentrated flavor of toffee in this. It is smoky, rich and caramel-y. The sponge pudding is light and fluffy aromatized with the seductive spices. Perfect to have dessert first – don’t you think?
I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! May you have a blessed and relaxed time with your family and hope Santa is exceptionally generous. I’m in the midst of preparing my Christmas Eve menu and doing last minute shopping.
I’ll see you next week with a luxurious chocolate breakfast! In the meantime I leave you with a few more dessert ideas below and a dreamy winter morning scene in Weimar.
From Plate to Page
You might like these Christmas Desserts from WFLH:
|White Chocolate Cardamom Mousse with Spekulatius Crumbs||Layered Cranberry and Mango Mousse||Chocolate & Coconut French Yule Log|
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