Sticky Toffee Pudding with Salted Butterscotch Sauce.
Nursery food, to me, is something I often rely on when I’m feeling fragile. Trying to recreate something that is familiar to me from my childhood is an easy and familiar way of reminding myself how far I have come but still allowing me to remember the past in the most accessible way. Pictures are great for memories in one way, as they visually take you back – however those of us with a fertile imagination often need three dimensional reminders of the past. This is where food is my natural go-to for reminders. Not only does it enable me to visualise where I have been and what I have done, but flavours enable me to transport my senses. It’s like a food DeLorean.
There’s something very nursery about a Sticky Toffee Pudding, isn’t there? We all have nightmares about some of our school dinners however mine were not that bad. Despite being a much more savoury person than a sweet, I can only seem to remember the puddings of my school canteen. Canary yellow custard on a Coconut Layer cake, Arctic rolls so cold your teeth would freak out, pale pink Blancmange – what the hell is that, anyway? But nothing sticks in my mind more than the excitement I would feel when the two-foot-three pink ladies behind the steaming silver counters would be serving up some sticky toffee pudding.
There’s something almost childlike about the tooth achingly sweet spongy bite of the pudding that transports me back to a 90’s school canteen. Sat on a red plastic stool attached to a huge table that folds out. Food would be served on a pallid green tray bordered into sections and found in the bottom left square would be a heaping mound of the stickiest of toffee puddings to make the day more bearable.
But that was then and this is now, and while the sticky toffee pudding you find on this page is not one you would find on a pale green school tray, it still gives you the heart-warming feeling it achieved then. What I wanted to achieve with this recipe was a pudding that was almost self-saucing. A lot of sticky toffee puddings have to be steamed in order to retain the element of stickiness, but I wanted to find a balance between steaming the pudding and baking the pudding so that there was a significant amount of moisture to retain its famous gluey charm but still caked enough to hold its shape.
Now, I do have some soaked mixed fruit. I have a tendency to throw mixed fruit into a lot of recipes but I really did feel that I wanted to make a grown up version of the puddings I would be fed in schools. I wanted to give the pudding a salty note that catches you off guard but also a note of subtle alcohol spiked fruit in order to ensure the flavour layers are balanced. It’s a child’s food for grownups that I make no apologies for.
Preheat the oven to 180C and butter a baking dish that can hold a significant amount of liquid. Place 150g of dried mixed fruit into a cup of a bowl and cover with some brandy and allow to soak. Add 100g of dark brown sugar to a bowl along with 150g of plain flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder. Give everything a stir to combine.
In a jug, measure out 120ml of milk – for this I used almond milk, but who cares if you use normal milk, I’d go for semi skimmed with this as it’s already creamy enough. Into this milk add 50g of butter and a tablespoon of the brandy that the fruit is soaking in before popping in a microwave and heating for a minute until the butter has melted into the milk. Pour this into the bowl of dry ingredients. Crack in an egg and two teaspoons of vanilla extract and give everything a stir.
Drain the dried fruit thoroughly before sprinkling over a tiny pinch of flour before adding to the pudding batter. My mother always taught me to sprinkle flour over any dried fruit in a baking recipe so that they don’t sink. I do as I’m told! Now using a rubber spatula – just because it’s easier – scrape the batter into your buttered dish.
On top of this batter, this is where we are going to make your self-saucing sauce. Sprinkle over some more dark, brown sugar (maybe 150g?) before using your fingers to rip up some butter and dot over the top of the batter. Now as weird as this sounds, boil the kettle and once boiled, pour over 400ml before dusting everything with some sea salt. Don’t use pouring table salt, it will make it taste way too salty as opposed to a spiky punch at the end. Put the pudding in the oven for about 50 minutes until the top is cakey and ebony.
Don’t worry if you can’t see any sauce. What happens is that the butter and sugar on top of the pudding combine with the salt and water and ooze DOWN through the pudding, keeping all of the salty, sticky sauce beneath your cake as opposed to on top where it will dry out. You’ll see the sauce as soon as you cut into it and plate yourself up a slice. Serve with ice cream but I have most certainly just ate this on it’s own.
The familiar texture of the pudding will transport you right back to that school canteen however the jazzed up fruit will remind you that you still have bills to pay. It’s a happy medium reminder we all need, but I like my adolescent reminders to come in the form of puddings. But that’s just me.
Also head over to INSTAGRAM and followed me @mikeyandthekitchen to be able to see a video of this in all of it’s saucy splendour!