Easy Sticky-Toffee Pudding
This draws on a the culinary technology of the surprise pudding — that amazing affair by which, on baking, a layer of sponge is formed, under which evolves a thick and luscious sauce — while playing with the flavours of a traditional sticky-toffee pudding. True, if you're feeding 12 people you'll need to make two, but given how almost provocatively easy it is, that's no big deal. I can see this stretching to 8, maybe even a little bit beyond, but I wouldn't want to ask much more of it... Better to have too much than give rise to even the slightest tremor of ration-anxiety at the table. Never Knowingly Undercatered, that's me.For the cake:
100 g dark muscovado sugar
175 g self-raising flour
125 ml full-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50 g unsalted butter, melted
200 g chopped, rolled datesFor the sauce:
200 g dark muscovado sugar
approx. 25 g unsalted butter in little blobs
500 ml boiling water
Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5 and butter a 1 1/2 litre capacity pudding dish.
Combine the 100g dark muscovado sugar with the flour in a large bowl. Pour the milk into a measuring jug, beat in the egg, vanilla and melted butter and then pour this mixture over the sugar and four, stirring — just with a wooden spoon — to combine. Fold in the dates then scrape into the prepared pudding dish. Don't worry if it doesn't look very full: it will do by the time it cooks.
Sprinkle over the 200g dark muscovado sugar and dot with the butter. Pour over the boiling water (yes, really!) and transfer to the oven. Set the timer for 45 minutes, though you might find the pudding needs 5 or 10 minutes more. The top of the pudding should be springy and spongy when it's cooked; underneath, the butter, dark muscovado sugar and boiling water will have turned into a rich, sticky sauce. Serve with vanilla ice cream, crème fraîche, double or single cream as you wish.
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