Tag Archives: dessert

Sticky toffee pudding, two recipes

Sticky toffee pudding, vanilla ice-cream

The past three weekends I’ve done sticky toffee pudding for Sunday lunch. This is in part because it’s a delicious pudding, but also because, well, January is a horrible time of year in Britain: Christmas festivities are behind you, it’s cold, it’s dark, it’s dank. If there’s a time of the year when you can justify indulging in sweet stodge, it’s now, you need that carb comfort. Save your de-toxes and dietary self-deprivation for a nice time of the year – May or June say, when there’s new life, new growth, longer days, more light.

Sticky toffee pudding is usually made by baking a batter, which gets its character from the inclusion of dates that have been soaked in boiling water, with a toffee sauce poured over the finished cake. The past few weeks I tried Felicity Cloake’s recipe, which is great, but not perfect (there’s not enough sauce for starters) then my own baked version (below). But it got me thinking, what about a steamed version?

I grew up eating treacle sponge pudding, a steamed pudding where you put golden syrup into a pudding basin, then cover it with a batter and steam it. The result is genuinely sticky, and lovely, and a must in winter. I wanted to try the same with sticky toffee, putting some of the sauce into the basin before cooking to give a similar result.

Steaming is an old-fashioned way of cooking puddings that’s not that common now. It takes longer than baking, so make sure you check the timing of your meal as it’s always nice to serve a steamed pudding straight away, turned out and freshly oozing and steaming. When I made this on Sunday, to accompany a bonanza of pork smoked by Fran and her brother Al, I failed miserably with this as we were playing in the park and I left it too late. This one is made in a 1.2 litre pudding basin, so it takes a while for the heat to cook the batter all the way through: mine took four hours.

This sort of cooking is especially good if you have a range cooker or woodburner, where a pan can just steam away quietly with no extra energy demand. We’ve got an induction hob now, which is very energy efficient, so steaming is a good choice. On more conventional cookers, too, it’s no so bad, as it only requires a low flame.

300g cream
100g caster sugar
100g dark muscovado sugar
100g butter

240g stoned dates, chopped
250g boiling water
1 teaspoon / 7g bicarbonate of soda

175g butter, softened
80g caster sugar
80g dark muscovado sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
175g self-raising flour [or 170g of plain/all-purpose flour and 1 1/2 tsp baking powder*]
1 tsp vanilla extract
Grate of lemon zest

1. Grease a 1.2 litre pudding basin.
2. Put the dates and bicarb in a bowl, pour over the boiling water and leave to soak for at least 10 minutes.
3. Make the sauce by combining the cream, butter and sugars in a saucepan and heating slowly on the hob. When all melted, increase the heat to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Put about 4 tablespoonfuls of the sauce in the base of the basin and leave the rest in the pan for serving.

Cream butter and sugars

5. Make the batter by creaming together the butter and sugars until light.
6. Add the beaten egg, along with the vanilla and lemon zest, a little at a time. Add a little of the flour if it starts to curdle.
7. Sieve in the rest of the flour and fold it through.

Add the dates

8. Pour all the date gloop into the batter and blend. It’s not the nicest looking batter, but don’t worry, it’ll taste great.
9. Put this batter into the basin.

Seal the basin

10. Cover the basin with a piece of foil or parchment, with a pleat in it, and tie a piece of string around the rim, to secure.
11. To steam the pudding, I just use a vegetable steamer set over a pan over simmering water, but you can also use a large pan, with a heatproof plate set in the bottom, and filled with water to half-way up the pudding basin.
12. Steam for about 3 1/2 hours. If it’s not cooked through it can collapse, ruining your ta-da! moment, so take the basin out of the steamer, remove the string and check the mixture. You should be able to see very clearly if the batter hasn’t quite turned into sponge pudding yet. If it hasn’t reseal the foil and continue to steam.
13. When the pudding is almost cooked, warm up the sauce again.
14. Turn the pudding out onto a warmed plate, and serve immediately. Either pour the sauce over the pudding before cutting it, or pour the sauce over individual wedges. For added decadence, add a blob of whipped cream, clotted cream or vanilla ice-cream.

Invert the basin

Remove the basin

Sticky toffee pudding - drizzle with sauce 1

Sticky toffee pudding - drizzle with sauce 2

Sticky toffee pudding - drizzle with sauce 3

The result is good. It’s considerably more sticky than a normal, baked sticky toffee pudding, which relies on the sauce for any stickiness. This is sticky all the way through, it’s denser, gooey, oozey. I’m not saying it’s better, it’s just suprisingly different considering how the flavours are the same: it’s just a question of texture.

Baked version

Make them both, compare, enjoy the sugary, stodgy winter foods!

240g stoned dates, chopped
250g boiling water
1 teaspoon / 7g bicarbonate of soda

120g butter, softened
80g caster sugar
80g dark muscovado sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 t vanilla essence
Grate of lemon zest
240g SR flour

300g cream
100g caster sugar
100g dark muscovado sugar
100g butter

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
3. Put the dates and bicarb in a bowl, pour over the boiling water and leave to soak for at least 10 minutes.
3. Cream the butter and sugars, then add the beaten egg, along with the vanilla and lemon zest, a little at a time. Add a little of the flour if it starts to curdle.
4. Sieve in the rest of the flour and fold to it through.
5. Pour all the date gloop into the batter and blend.
6. Put the sloppy batter in a 22cm-ish square tin lined with parchment and bake for about 50 minutes or until risen and firm and a skewer comes out clean. If it’s starting to brown too much but not baked through, cover with foil and leave in the oven some more.
7. Meanwhile make the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a saucepan, heating them to melt. When all melted together, bring to the boil and cook for about 5 minutes.
8. When the cake part is baked through, remove from the oven.
9. Serve the cake warm, cut into chunks, with the sauce poured over and a blob of thick cream, ideally clotted cream, or with vanilla ice cream.


Oh, and for any North Americans struggling with my British English use of the word “pudding”, check out this post.

* Converting plain/all-purpose flour to self-raising involves replacing 5% of the flour with baking powder. I wrote a whole post on it here. As 5% of 175g is 8.75g, which is a bit awkward. So as a teaspoon is 5 ml, or effectively 5g of powder, let’s just call it 1 1/2 teaspoons (sure, that’s closer to 7.5g, but it’ll be fine when steamed. If you’re fussed, just heap up your teaspoon a bit).


Filed under Baking, Puddings & desserts, Recipes

Pudding, boudin, budino and complex historical relationship between desserts and sausages

In my last post, I mentioned my attempt to make a boudin di ricotta (below). It either went wrong, or this retro cheesecake just wasn’t to my taste. Either way, one thing the dish got me thinking about was the word budino, which can be translated as “pudding”.

Budino di ricotta, baked

As anyone who’s interested in food, or eating, or sausages, or dessert, knows, the meaning of the word pudding can be little complicated. Likewise budino.

English has the word pudding, French boudin, and Italian budino. Surely these are all related? It’s agreed that the latter words come from the Latin for gut or intestine, botellus, which relates to the modern Italian word budella. English etymological dictionaries, on the other hand, suggest that the word pudding may comes from old English and German words for swellings and lumps (puducpuddek etc). Thankfully, other sources posit1 botellus as an alternative source too. The relationship seems too strong for the English word to not have the Latin root, surely?

Originally, pudding, budino and boudin all referred to much the same kind of product: sausages made with blood, meal, fat and animal bits (including ambergris, a sperm whale digestive byproduct), all stuffed into intestinal membrane and steamed or boiled.


This sense of the word still exists in the things like the Scottish haggis, or the British black pudding, its French cousin boudin noir, and even an Italian cousin called sanguinaccio 2 (from the Latin sanguis, blood). Interestingly, though, the latter straddles both the older sense of the savoury pudding, and the modern usage, which more commonly refers to desserts. Italy has various versions of sanguinaccio, running the spectrum from full savoury sausage, to a chocolate pudding traditionally thickened and flavoured with fresh pigs’ blood at the time of slaughter to a basic chocolate pudding like a mousse, with nary a pig byproduct.

Pudding cloth boiled pudding

Although in British English, the word pudding has become almost synonymous with dessert, for me (I’m English), it more specifically refers to dishes that have been steamed or boiled.

Again, in the Middle Ages, food, specifically the food of the rich, would blend what we now consider very different flavours: the savoury with the sweet, meat with spices, salt and sugar. British mincemeat (as in Christmas mince pies) originally took this form, for example.

When one strain of the pudding evolved into savoury sausages, other strains evolved into desserts. The meat in the dish would have been reduced to fat in the form of suet or lard, while the grain, fruit, sugar and spices might have stayed. The animal membrane was replaced with a cloth, then latter a ceramic bowl, though the pudding was still cooked by boiling or steaming.

mason cash pudding basin

This path of evolution gives us things like British Christmas pudding, schoolboys’ favourite spotted dick, bread-and-fruit summer pudding and other dishes where even the fruit and spice has evolved out, such as one personal fave, treacle sponge pudding. Strangely, the word’s usage narrowed down even further in North American English, where, as I understand it, pudding just refers to mousse or custard-like deserts.

The abovementioned treacle sponge pudding is basically just a steamed cake mixture made with golden syrup (a gingery version of mine can be found here). If an equivalent type of mix is instead baked, then served as a dessert, it’s still a called a pudding (in BE). It may be long way from stuffed intestine but it’s still a descendant. We also still have savoury puddings in Britain, where a pastry crust is filled with meat and/or vegetables and steamed or boiled in a ceramic pudding basin (eg this one made with venison).

So any time Anglophones from North America and the British Isles find themselves arguing about the meaning of the word pudding – something we’ve done with a Canadian friend – bear this wonderful, convoluted history in mind!

1 From Etymonline: pudding (n.) c.1300, “a kind of sausage: the stomach or one of the entrails of a pig, sheep, etc., stuffed with minced meat, suet, seasoning, boiled and kept till needed,” perhaps from a West Germanic stem *pud– “to swell” (cf. Old English puduc “a wen,” Westphalian dialect puddek “lump, pudding,” Low German pudde-wurst “black pudding,” English dialectal pod “belly;” also cf. pudgy).

Other possibility is the traditional one that it is from Old French boudin “sausage,” from Vulgar Latin botellinus, from Latin botellus “sausage” (change of French b– to English p– presents difficulties, but cf. purse). The modern sense had emerged by 1670, from extension to other foods boiled or steamed in a bag or sack (16c.). German pudding, French pouding, Swedish pudding, Irish putog are from English.

2 You can find recipes for various versions of sanguinnaccio online. There’s a more savoury one here (and pictured above). And while this one is made using sausage casings, it’s more a dessert. While this one (in Italian) is decidedly a dessert, made with neither sausages casings or even blood: so basically a chocolate mousse.

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Filed under Discussion, Misc, Other food, Puddings & desserts