A sticky success

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Four (now nearly five) years ago when I spent a year in England, I came upon the most delicious thing England has to offer -- sticky toffee pudding. Yorkie chocolate bars, Cadbury Dairy Milk Turkish, mushy peas, sultana scones, Digestives, Penguin biscuits, banoffee pie all come close, but not quite close enough. My friend Kate and I made a day trip to the Lake District on a nice day in early May, which involved a train, a ferry and several buses. At a transfer point in Hawkshead on our way to Coniston, our stomachs cried out and we settled down to a simple lunch at The Sun Inn on the main pedestrian road.

I eyed the sticky toffee pudding as I ordered my cheese scone and chips entree, as I'd heard a lot about the dessert from my longtime English friend Nicola. When the hostess-cum-waitress set the plate down on our rustic table, I had no idea what I was about to get myself into.

The pudding had an unremarkable appearance -- rectangular and caramel-colored, topped off with a great scoop of vanilla ice cream. But the second the first mouthful went down, I was in love.

A winter or two later, I decided to attempt my own sticky toffee pudding. At Christmas, I gathered all the ingredients and carefully mixed and prodded, looking forward to the ooey gooeyness.

When it came out of the oven, I knew something was wrong. The color was off -- it was an unhealthy shade of gray. As I poked holes into its surface, poured the luxuriant toffee sauce over it and cut myself a square, I felt deepening shades of disappointment. It looked disgusting. I nervously forked a conservative mouthful into my mouth and I knew it was the end. I had failed.

Fast forward to this winter. My interest in England and the United Kingdom had recently resurfaced, and the notion of attempting the sticky toffee pudding came back to me. On New Year's Eve, I decided -- with not a little caution -- to give it another go.

We drove miles to the "right" grocery store and battled last-minute crowds. And at last, with dishes washed and ingredients prepared, I was ready. In went the butter, the confectioner's sugar, the flour (whipped, not folded in, as the recipe called for -- oops), the water-logged dates. And then it was into the oven, and into the shower for me.

Five minutes into my shower, the words "Oh my God" came to my mouth. I had forgotten the eggs. I HAD FORGOTTEN THE EGGS.

Quickly, the pan was pulled out of the oven and though the pudding had begun crusting, I mixed in the eggs, hoping for the best but expecting nothing. 40 minutes later, the toffee sauce was made without incident and the pudding pulled out of the oven.

I don't know what went wrong, but it came out right. It wasn't as good as the one I had at The Sun Inn, but for a first (second) attempt, it was pretty damn good.

I used this Udny Arms recipe, though I wouldn't exactly say I followed it :).

And while I'm on my UK kick, I will make a banoffee pie next. And someday, Anzac biscuits (Australia, New Zealand), which I made while I was in England and wasn't amazed by ... I trust I did something wrong because they are so beloved. I brought a bottle of Golden Syrup back from England for this express purpose and, er, it's getting old.

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