Challenge

What a great idea! Susie Jackson from the ITI Food & Drink network came up with a fun activity to follow Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off 2021.  Namely, for members to be allocated a contestant and when they leave the tent the Food & Drink member bakes one of the recipes from that week.

I was allocated Maggie who left the tent in week four having made sticky toffee pudding as the technical bake. She had forgotten to add the flour to the mixture, resulting in a rather more sticky bake than she expected.

Susie duly sent me a note after the programme with a list of recipes to choose from with #GBBO links. My 15-year-old daughter chose Prue Leith’s sticky toffee pudding, so I did some shopping for extras and embarked on the technical bake (without the time restrictions thankfully). What follows is how it went and the tasting outcomes. It’s a shame we couldn’t share the flavours and enjoyment with you too, but maybe you’ll be inspired to make it yourself. If you do, let me know!

Pudding culture

Over the years, I have long tried many sticky toffee puddings and have made it for a family treat as well. The most delicious example I experienced was at a now-defunct restaurant in Seatoller, at the very end of Borrowdale in the Lake District. A British classic pudding, it seems to have been adopted by the Cumbrian region over the last few decades. With its sticky texture derived from the dates and its very sweet aromas it is just the ticket after a day’s walking amongst the drizzle-drenched fells.

Get ready – bake!

This recipe has the addition of rather nutty-flavoured fancy tuiles – a quintessential French wafer served with desserts.  It seems that Prue

is looking to introduce variety of texture to the desert with the tuiles as well as making the bake more challenging and the dish more of a statement.

The first step in the recipe is to make the tuiles. To be honest, these were one of the things I was more concerned about making, along with the crème anglaise.

Prue’s recipe tells you to melt the ingredients in a pan and then add in the nuts and sesame seeds. They are then turned onto a baking sheet and

cooked in the oven.

The image on the left is where the tuiles are taken from the sheet and left to cool.

The relief when they turned out alright – they are missing the black sesame seeds due to the ongoing supply chain issues at the supermarket! They tasted nice but they missed the speckled look that Prue’s had on the website.

 

Sticky toffee

My favourite element of sticky toffee pudding and the part that really makes the dessert, I think, is the toffee sauce. And cooking sugar to make toffee is always exciting! I always wonder if I have cooked the sugar-water mixture enough. And it probably doesn’t help that I have a black pan so seeing what colour the sugar has turned is quite tricky!

This time, I think I cooked the sugar for slightly too long – it had formed into crystals on the side of the pan. But the rescue came when I added the butter and cream, holding the pan over the heat briefly to melt the sugar into the sauce.

Don’t forget the flour, Mum!

The next step is to make the batter for the pudding itself and put them into the moulds. Part of this process is to soak the chopped dates in hot water and bicarbonate of soda, followed by blitzing in the blender.

My dates should have been soaked for a little longer. As you can see, they didn’t puree completely – larger pieces are visible in the mixture. But once they were baked, they had melted into the pudding mixture. And thanks to my daughter’s reminder, I added the flour to the mixture.

Bête noire

While the puddings were in the oven, the last piece of the bake was to make the crème anglaise. My other bête noire of this bake, as I rarely – if ever – make it. My memories of custard, the usual English term, are from the 70s when I was growing up. It would be a Bird’s Custard mix and would most often have developed a skin. Consequently, it remains firmly fixed as one of my least favourite dessert options. It was less than mouth-watering! But, making proper custard like this one is infinitely better.

I managed not to turn it into scrambled eggs, and its creaminess paired very well with the texture of the pudding.

My bake notes: I’d recommend making this dessert as we thoroughly enjoyed it. But I would offer the following suggestions:

  • make twice the amount of pudding batter and cook the second half in a tin. That way you’ll get to use up the rest of the toffee sauce.

  • leave enough time to ensure the pudding mixture cooks completely. Mine took longer than the 20–25 minutes indicated. I do wonder if the toffee sauce has an impact on the bake time too, so you could cook the batter without that at the bottom of the moulds.
  • miss out the tuiles as you can really enjoy the pudding without them. It will save you some time!


Taste test

My teens were more than happy with the pudding – and they have tasted many traditional British puds over the years. My husband and I enjoyed the crème anglaise with the puddings but agreed that a small curl of vanilla ice cream would have worked just as well. A successful desert for a weekend lunchtime dinner.

If you give it a try, do tell me how your bake went – I’d love to hear about it. Just remember to add in the flour!

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