Sunday, December 26, 2010

Slow Cooker Sticky Toffee Pudding

I am a huge fan of the Not Your Mother's series of cookbooks.   I loved the slow cooker one so much I have given it as a gift and I just recently gifted myself with the latest one regarding microwave cookery.    In the slow cooker cookbook, there is a whole chapter on desserts, many are steamed cakes in a water bath, a la British puddings.    I decided for Christmas Eve this year, I would try sticky toffee pudding.   According to Saveur, this dessert was introduced  at the Sharrow Bay Hotel restaurant in England's Lake District in the 60s.  It is a steamed date cake that is very moist, and it is served with a toffee sauce and creme anglaise.   I looked at the techniques used in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook  and gave it a shot using the Cook's Illustrated recipe as a base and adapting it as I saw fit to make things easier and less fussy that the usual CI recipe.  If you are worried about not liking dates, don't worry.   The dates will be unrecognizable in the finished product.   Also, try it with different dried fruits like prunes or apricots, which I am sure would be lovely as well.
British pudding mold
To make a steamed cake in a slow cooker, you need a large oval one.     I have an All Clad Slow Cooker - it's large enough to do the job.  (note that I have been less than thrilled with this cooker - I got it with a gift card from Williams Sonoma and have had to send it back twice to All Clad for repairs)  There are other brands of slow cookers that are much less spendy that are better.    I used a proper British pudding mold to make my sticky toffee pudding.    I am not sure where something like a pudding mold could be bought in Ann Arbor these days, but you can get one easily online .     Originally, I bought one the now closed Ann Arbor cooking emporium Kitchen Port (may it RIP). Check Hollander's Kitchen and Home which I really want to like but never seem to find anything I want to buy there, or Barnes Hardware which is exactly the opposite - I always find too much stuff that I want to buy there.  You too?  On second thought, don't run out and buy a new pudding mold - I've seen them kicking around garage sales and the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Thrift Shop from time to time.  A steamed cake can be made in a ceramic bowl with aluminum foil tightly tied on top too.  The important thing is to have it tightly covered in the water bath.

Slow Cooker Sticky Toffee Pudding

1 ¼ c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¼ c whole dates, pitted and sliced.  Chop half of them into as tiny pieces as possible.
¾ c warm water
½ t baking soda
½ t baking powder
½ t salt
¾ c packed brown sugar
2  eggs
1 ½ t vanilla extract
4 T unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted

Grease and flour a small lidded pudding mold (1 ½ qt) or a medium sized ceramic bowl.   Fill a tea kettle with water and put it on to boil.  Combine the chopped tiny date pieces with water and baking soda and soak for 5 minutes.  CI says that the baking soda helps soften the skin on the dates.   Good to know!  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a food processor, combine remaining (large pieces) of dates with the brown sugar and process for about 30 seconds until the mixture looks like wet sand. Drain the  soaking liquid from the dates (reserve dates) and add to the processor, plus the eggs, and vanilla and process until smooth, about 5 seconds. With food processor running, pour melted butter through feed tube in steady stream and process until smooth.  With a spoon (don’t process) mix in the softened dates to the bowl.  

Gently stir dry mixture into wet mixture until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared baking dish or mold.  Cover with lid or aluminum foil tied down with kitchen twine.   Place in slow cooker, and add enough boiling water to reach halfway up sides.  Cook on high for 2 ½ - 3 hours, until cake is firm and springs back when touched. Set on wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then invert on a plate.

Toffee sauce

Toffee Sauce
8 T  unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 c packed brown sugar
2/3 c heavy cream
1 Tablespoon rum – Captain Morgan’s Private Reserve is wonderfully spiced and great in this sauce!

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in brown sugar until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and mixture looks puffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly pour in cream and rum, whisk just to combine, reduce heat, and simmer until frothy, about 3 minutes. Pour into serving pitcher.

Crème Anglaise

½ c whole milk
5  egg yolks
¼ c sugar
Pinch salt
1 t vanilla

In a medium saucepan heat milk over medium heat until steaming, about 3 minutes. . Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt together in medium bowl until pale yellow in color, about 1 minute.  Slowly pour 1/2 cup hot milk into yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until mixture thickens slightly, coats back of spoon with thin film, and registers 175 to 180 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 8 minutes. Add  vanilla.  Immediately pour mixture through fine-mesh strainer into serving pitcher.

To serve – plate pieces of cake and pass the toffee sauce and crème anglaise to pour over the top.

1 comment:

Buttercup said...

This sent me on an enjoyable browse for discussion of "plum duff" and "spotted dick", two (or maybe the same)traditional English puddings that this seems to be based on.

Here is the recipe I have for plum duff, from an Australian friend. It is very rich so I don't make it much.

Plum duff: Mix 1 1/3 c flour, 1/3 c sugar, 1 T baking powder and dash salt. Stir in 2/3 cup milk and 1 cup raisins (or use prunes).

Into a 2-quart casserole with lid, put 1 c brown sugar, 4 Tablespoons butter, and 2 cups boiling water. Stir, then drop in the dough.

Cook (covered) about 1 hour at 350 F

This makes a rich "steamed" pudding with a toffee-like sauce. My notes say "serve with cream or custard".