Chef-Inspired Chow: Dates–No Longer Just for “Old People”
The sticky toffee pudding from The Redhead will give you a whole new perspective on dates
Tis’ the season for frigid nights and twinkling lights (and for rhyming!) that make it acceptable for you to incessantly snack on sweet treats. If you are searching for a method to increase your body “cushioning” to help you stay warm this winter, I have the perfect
plumping dessert for you: sticky toffee pudding. From the name itself you may realize that this dessert is not for the faint of heart, or for those who do not enjoy reveling in warm, rich cake (I truly hope those people do not exist). This amalgam of dense cake and gooey glaze comes together to create a addictively decadent treat, perfect for a cold winter night. If you read on, you will quickly find out why….
I relished my first helping of sticky toffee pudding at The Redhead in the East Village, and it has held the top spot as my favorite dessert ever since. This scrumptious creation begins with a foundation of dense date cake. I know what you are thinking: date, like the dried brown lumps my grandma eats? Yes, those dried brown lumps are an essential ingredient for this delicious dessert. Dates get a bad rap, because they are commonly thought of as being consumed by the toothless elderly in nursing homes. However, there is much more to these sweet fruit jewels than that. They are used in many recipes as a natural sweetener, replacing refined sugars, and making way for a much healthier method of cooking.
Since we have now solidified the true meaning of dates, let us continue with the building of our sticky toffee pudding. After the date cake is made, small holes are poked across the entire surface of the cake and it is enveloped in a thick caramel glaze. **Writer’s note of nostalgia: You remember when eating waffles as a child that you would try to drizzle maple syrup into every hollow of the waffle so each bite would be the perfect waffle-to-syrup ratio? Well, that is very similar to the technique for pouring the caramel glaze onto your date cake. You want to make certain that every inch of the cake’s surface is covered with the caramel. Then, the cake must sit for at least thirty minutes to allow time for the glaze to soak into every crevice, so caramel will blanket each bite. Voilà, your sticky toffee pudding is ready to be devoured!
When I helped prepare Thanksgiving dinner for my family this year, I was inspired by the icy weather to make a warm dessert, so sticky toffee pudding was the perfect choice. I could not locate the precise recipe for The Rehead dessert, but I found a similar recipe courtesy of Ina Garten, most commonly known as “The Barefoot Contessa”. The final product tasted just as delicious as I remember from The Redhead, so I recommend you use Ina Garten’s recipe as well (the recipe follows this blog post).
Now, I give you permission to put on your coat and scarf, trudge outside, and race to Westside to get the ingredients for your sticky toffee pudding! Trust me, it will change your view on dates and surely give your stomach an extra layer of “cushioning” for the winter ahead.
*If you would like to make a visit to The Redhead and try the famous sticky toffee pudding yourself, here is the address:
349 E. 13th Street East Village, New York City 10003.
*Make note: Reservations are not taken for parties under 5 people nor are reservations taken for any party passed 6:30 pm. I would recommend going on a weekday, when you will have the best chance of being seated quickly. Go this reading week! Nothing will help settle your exam nerves like a generous helping of rich, gooey sticky toffee pudding!
Ina Garten’s Sticky Toffee Pudding
Makes one 9 -inch cake.
Cook Time: 30-60 min
For the cake:
¾ pound dates, pitted and chopped
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¹/³ cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ tablespoons baking powder
For the sauce:
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
½ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons good bourbon, such as Maker’s Mark
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Whipped cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 x 2-inch round cake pan.
Place the dates in a deep saucepan with 1: cups of water. Bring to boil, stirring a little to break up the dates. Allow to simmer for 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the baking soda (it will bubble up!). Set aside.
Meanwhile, in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla, scraping down the bowl. (The mixture may look curdled.) Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer still on low, slowly add it to the batter. With the mixer on low, add the hot date mixture in two batches to the batter, scraping down the bowl. The batter will be runny but don’t worry! Stir in the baking powder, which will also bubble up. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Meanwhile, combine the butter, brown sugar, heavy cream, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the bourbon and vanilla and pour into a 2-cup heat-proof glass measuring cup. Set aside. As soon as the cake is done, poke holes all over it with a toothpick. Pour three-quarters of the sauce evenly over the cake while still warm and allow it to soak in for 30 minutes. Turn the cake out bottom side up onto a flat serving plate and pour the remaining sauce on top. Cool completely.
Serve at room temperature with whipped cream.
Written by: ameliarosen