Sticky Toffee Pudding

My two best finds in England? Becky and sticky toffee pudding. Becky is a Brit and a cherished friend. She is also whip-smart and has a laugh that fills a room. I was reminded of that last week. Mike and I met up with Becky for lunch whilst in London on a visit. Such a treat!
I was also reminded of the first time I’d eaten sticky toffee pudding. It was Becky’s birthday and I had strong-armed my way into a reservation at the, then, most popular spot in town, The Ivy. I may have insinuated that I was a food writer. I can’t remember. It was 10 years ago and not entirely a lie; my diary is loaded with food descriptions…as far back as the 6th grade. I have since eaten sticky toffee pudding hundreds of times but none have been as good. The Ivy didn’t invent it but they sure did perfect it. Almost. I have made a few additions to their recipe along the way that give it a bit of a kick, a more modern flavor if you will but it is them and Becky that I have to thank. I was one small fib away from never knowing the beauty of sticky toffee pudding
For my final, in culinary school, I made sticky toffee pudding into a composed dessert with bourbon hard sauce and cocoa nib tuile all wrapped in a caramelized sugar cage. It was beautiful and earned me high marks but way too fussy for everyday enjoyment. This recipe is not complicated, but it is a bit time-consuming. It takes a bit of advanced planning, but I promise, it is worth it.

sticky toffee pudding


for the date puree
375gr stoned dates
375ml water
1/2 inch knob of peeled ginger kept whole
Simmer the dates and ginger in the water over low heat about 15 minutes until they are very soft and the water has almost evaporated. Remove the knob of ginger and discard. process the remaining water and dates until very smooth.
for the toffee sauce
640 ml heavy cream
340 gr granulated sugar
130 gr corn syrup (optional)
130 gr unsalted butter
generous pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla
Pour half the cream, sugar, corn syrup (if using), butter and salt into a thick-bottomed pan and mix well.  Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon, and continue to boil until it is golden brown.  Remove from heat and allow it to cool slightly. Whisk in the remaining cream and vanilla. Set aside.
for the sponge
130 g unsalted butter–room temperature
375 g dark brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
450 gr bread flour
10 gr baking powder
3 gr baking soda
3 gr kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Grease and line a baking tin measuring approximately 30x24x6cm, with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, clove, ginger, and cardamom.  In a mixer cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, do not allow the mixture to separate. If it does, add a bit of flour to bind it back together. Add vanilla. Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat until the mixture is smooth.  Fold in flour mixture until smooth.  Add the warm date puree and mix well.  Spread in prepared tin and bake for about 45-50 minutes at 350. Use a cake tester to ensure you do not overbake.
To assemble
Once cooled, remove the cake from the tin and trim the edges.  Slice horizontally into 3 and reassemble in the baking tin, spreading two-thirds of the sauce between layers. Just before you are ready to serve, place the cake back in a 350 oven for about 15 minutes, then cut into equal servings.  Top with remaining toffee sauce. You can serve with softly whipped cream, creme fraiche, soured cream or ice cream.

**You can also make these into cupcakes. Bake as normal and before they are completely cooled, poke holes in them and pour in the toffee sauce. Allow it to seep in and pool on top.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

The Holy Grail

We landed in Valencia, Spain and our first stop was at the cathedral to see what is reported to be The Holy Grail.

We then walked up the tower; 207 stairs going up and 207 stairs going down.
Difficult, uneven steps.
Before we journeyed upwards, I noticed, in the corner of the cathedral square, a shop called Valor. For those in the know, Valor is an amazing chocolatier and I knew my prize for the journey.

a holy grail of culinary sorts

A warm cup of cocoa; small and pure from a single source and almost too much to take; so chocolaty, and amazing I had to order a bit of cream to chase it with. So American.
If perchance you are in Valencia and find yourself looking for the Holy Grail, you too can get two for one.

Sweet Barcelona

Just a little bit of what we found on our walkabout town this evening. Just off La Rambla sits La Boqueria where they sell beautiful produce, meats, fish, and my favorite of all sweets. Beautiful, tasty sweets. Enjoy I know I did.

Granola Pancakes

I’m not sure why I seem to believe that every time I make and/or eat pancakes it is a blog-worthy event. Even I am beginning to tire of me*grin*.
But listen, the reason these pancakes are so special is that they were inspired by breakfast at a general store in Noank, Connecticut. when we walked into Carson’s General Store, it was like walking back in time.

In this fairytale town adjacent to Mystic, we sat at a small table at the back of the store watching the old-timers in their morning ritual of chatting and collecting their daily read. Carafes of coffee emptied as the village crier did her position proud. This family-owned spot is over a 100 years old makes a damn fine granola pancake. This is NOT the recipe, because that is one piece of gossip they wouldn’t tell. I came up with my own facsimile….which is a bit less fluffy because I’m a less fluff and more substance kind of gal.

Granola Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3-1/2 cup dark brown sugar (i use less sugar because we use a lot of maple syrup around here, and I don’t like them getting too sweet)
2 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup (approx) granola
butter or pan spray for cooking
Mix all ingredients except the granola together and let rest for about 30 minutes.  After you pour the batter to the desired shape/size sprinkle granola across the top–it will cause the pancake to spread a bit.  Cook as normal and flip when ready.  serve with a bit of butter and lots of maple syrup.  

I love you a bushel and a peck

Nothing says autumn like a basket of just-picked crunchy, barely-sweet apples; imperfect,  in need of a good shine courtesy of my shirt sleeve.
There is little I can resist the fall colors begin to show in most of the country.
Here I sit in Southern California adjusting my air conditioning , wishing I were elsewhere.

Last week Mike and iI were in Connecticut, taking in the beauty of New England from our perch in a historic lighthouse. Late mornings spent driving windy back roads in search of antique shops and roadside stands. One morning, we stumbled upon an old cider mill.

It looked like a movie location for movies they don’t really make anymore. Being September, it was too early in the season which meant we couldn’t watch the mill in action, but as a consolation prize they served freshly made donuts. I’d show you a photo, but eating and shooting are difficult. Eating wins out every time. They were pretty goodbut not real apple-y and I like apple-y

In these instances, I am problematic. I began obsessing and articulating and talking about what I like about apple donuts and why apple fritters are actually better than donuts because of the apple pieces, and on and on and on. By the time we got back to the kitchen, with cider and apples in hand, I had a plan.

Apple Fritters

1 cup crisp apples–cut in a 1/4″ dice
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice
pinch cardamom
pinch nutmeg
pinch cinnamon
mix together in a bowl and let sit while you do your preparations
for the batter

1 cup apple cider
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbs unsalted butter–melted
2 large eggs
oil for frying
Simmer the apple cider on the stove until it is reduced to 1/4 cup, and let cool.
 Heat your oil in a sturdy deep pot, to 360F.  your oil should be deep enough so the fritter can float, but you must also have at least 3″ between the top of the pot and the top of the oil. 
 Meanwhile, place all your dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.  Make a well in the center and pour in milk, vanilla, butter, cider and eggs.  Slowly stir together, making sure all ingredients are incorporated, but do not beat.  Stir in the apple and any juices that may have accumulated. You can make these small or big, the process is the same.  Drop into hot oil and then using a spatula poke it a few times to flatten it a bit and give it some nooks and crannies.  Fry until golden brown, then flip and continue until both sides are equally colored. Remove from oil and place on a cooling rack, placed over a sheet pan.

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp agar agar powder (optional)
2 Tbs (more or less) cider
mix together in a shallow bowl.  when the fritters are still warm, but not too hot to touch, dip in the glaze. Serve warm or room temp.

Bee-ing Green

I hope I don’t sound like a braggart when I say I have knowledge of a lot of things.
need a business plan? I can set you on the right path
hungry? I can make you a good meal out of whatever you have in your pantry
toilet leaking? Not a problem
need a gift, dress, ride? I’m your gal.
But when it comes to beekeeping I am completely green, a rube, bush league, novice,rookie (insert your best out of my league insult here)

Now, after two years of talking about it, dreaming about it, pestering about it, we are going for it.
Mike and I have decided that this year is the year.
the year we start our hive.
You may remember that this summer past, we stalked a localĀ beekeeperĀ and have been doing some reconnaissance. It is time and we are finally ready to have our own hives.
Today I ordered our 3 lbs of bees and a queen (the finest bees money can buy): mite resistant and very prolific. And all ours. I will name each and every one of them Bob ; except for the queen she will be Shirley. I like the sound of Shirley and the boys; Shirley and the boys are fighting Shirley and the boys are busy, Shirley and the boys…..yes… I know all about the workers and they are female but I use boys like the Italians do when the male and female are mixed together. It is proper to use the male plural for simplicity. So there. My bees will know nothing about betty friedanĀ and I’m okay with that.

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