I had consigned myself to make pudding for a gathering of 17 last week, and didn't want to have to make lots of dishes to make sure there was enough. I settled on making two, this New York cheesecake, and an industrial-sized version of Nigella Lawson's Easy Sticky Toffee Pudding. There are very few people who dislike sticky toffee pudding, and it's got universal age-appeal.
Usually this wouldn't be a dish to make for lots of people, tapping out oven-hot mini pudding basins to order is certainly not my idea of fun. So you make life easier for yourself by making one large one, to be dished generously out. You don't get the prettiness of having perfectly moulded individual puddings, but that's the benefit over home over restaurant cooking, no one minds or even notices. Not that it's unattractive, just more homely than haute cuisine.
Not only does the simplicity of making this appeal to me, it's unlikeliness does too.You make a not especially interesting sponge batter, speckled with some dates, pour over a ridiculous amount of sugar, and drown the whole thing in boiling water. The liquidy mess goes into the oven for 45 minutes and comes out transformed.Even though the recipe told me not to be alarmed by its appearance, I still had my doubts, the idea that it might come out edible seems so improbable. But something magical (or chemical) happens during its time baking, the layers switch places, and you have a spongey top and a thick toffee sauce underneath.
I definitely want to experiment with this method. Self-saucing lemon and chocolate versions are pretty common, but I think there is some scope for innovation. I've got my sights set on a maple and pecan version next.
175g self raising flour
100g muscovado sugar
125ml full-fat milk
50g unsalted butter, milk
200g dates, stoned and chopped
200g muscovado sugar
25g unsalted butter, cut into little pieces
500ml boiling water
Preheat the oven to 190C, and butter a 1.5 litre pudding dish. Mix the flour and 100g muscovado sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat the milk, egg and melted butter together in a mixing bowl and stir this into the dry ingredients. Fold the dates in. Pour the mix into the dish and spread the top with the sugar, you'll have a good layer of it. Dot with the butter. Now drown the entire thing in the water, and place (carefully) in the oven. Don't worry about how it looks. Bake for 45 minutes, by which time the top will be spongy and risen with a melting sauce underneath.