Sticky Toffee Pudding

Make a large pudding or individual servings, and the sticky sauce is devilishly good over simple vanilla ice cream, too.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: about 30 minutes
Serves: 6-8

150g stoned dates
300g softened unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing
300g light muscovado sugar
4 medium eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon mixed spice
150g self-raising flour
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
150ml double cream or ice cream
double cream or ice cream to serve

Put the dates into a small saucepan, then pour in enough water to just cover them. Put the pan over medium heat, then bring to he boil. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the dates are very soft.

Drain the dates in a sieve, discarding the cooking liquid. Tip them into the bowl of a food processor, then process until smooth. Cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C//Gas Mark 4 and rub a little butter around the inside of a 20×30cm baking tin or small roasting tin, then line it with baking paper.

To line the tin
Cut a rectangle of baking paper a little larger than the tin, then make a 10cm cut in each corner towards the centre. Press it into the tin, letting the paper from the snipped corners overlap and seal together.

Weigh 200g of the butter and 200g of the sugar and add them to the food processor with the dates. Process until smooth.

Add the eggs, vanilla, mixed spice, flour and salt, then process everything together to a smooth batter. Spoon the mix into the prepared tin. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden and well risen.

While the pudding cooks, make the sticky toffee sauce. Put the remaining sugar and butter into a pan. Add the cream, then cook very gently for 5 minutes, or until the grains of sugar have dissolved.

Turn up the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until it has thickened and darkened to a silky toffee sauce.

When the pudding has been cooking for 30 minutes, insert a skewer into the middle. If the skewer comes out dry, the pudding is ready. If there are any traces of batter on the skewer, give the pudding 5 minutes longer in the oven before checking again.

Cut the pudding into squares then transfer to plates. Spoon some of the sauce over the top and serve, with a little more cream or ice cream.

To make individual puddings:
Butter 8 small pudding moulds, then fill with the pudding mix. Sit the moulds in a roasting tin, then bake for 20 minutes, or until risen and golden. Check with a skewer, as in step 7.

What To Cook & How To Cook It,
by Jane Hornby, and published by Phaidon. RRP: $59.95.