A Harry Potter addiction led to Sticky Toffee Pudding, and then a search for (and discovery of) Lyle’s golden syrup…a magical dessert comes together!
It all started with Harry Potter
My family was obsessed with the boy wizard (well, mostly my younger daughter and I)…we read the books, listened to the audiobooks in the car, and went to all the movies (then bought them on DVD). Yes, we were at Barnes & Noble at midnight for the release of books 6 & 7 (dressed up, of course). And while I wouldn’t let my then 9th grade younger daughter go to the midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (it was a school night…a decision for which she still is grumbling), I relented the following year when Deathly Hallows, Part 1 came out. Yup, we were definitely down the rabbit hole. We were always interested in British food (High Tea has been part of our birthday tradition for years), and we loved things like Trifle and Sticky Toffee Pudding.
[Side note: I blame my complete ignorance of the Outlander books on having small children around (and no sleep) when they were first released in 1992, then our Harry Potter addiction as completely consuming my reading back then. Otherwise, I have no excuse as I love historical fiction, romance, and science fiction. Luckily, I eventually found Outlander (the show and the books) and have once again been consumed. I think I’m better for it.]
Let’s cook Harry-Potter-style
Ok, where was I…oh yes, our addiction to Harry Potter. My younger daughter wanted to try and make the famous treacle tart that Harry so loved at Hogwarts. I had never heard of it before, but gamely decided to try. It seemed that the main ingredient was a British product called Lyle’s golden syrup. Hmmmm…living in Southern California at the time, my access to Lyle’s was very limited (I actually had no idea where to find it). We eventually tracked down a can, and made the tart. I seem to recall that we liked it (it was very sweet), but never tried it again because of the hassle of finding the golden syrup.
So why am I babbling on about Harry Potter, treacle tarts, and Lyle’s? Well, I recently went to a Scottish Festival in Maine, and one of the vendors had a can of Lyle’s golden syrup on display. Coincidentally, I had just been to 2 different restaurants here in Boston that served Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert, and had since been wanting to try and make it at home. As an important ingredient was the syrup, finding the can at the Festival seemed like a sign. And since I’m very into making British desserts these days (thanks, Outlander!), Sticky Toffee Pudding (henceforth to be called STP) seemed like a good item to try. To the kitchen, full steam ahead!
Tracking down an authentic recipe
Actually, I first took a detour to one of my Outlander Facebook groups asking if the members there had a particular STP recipe they liked. I was pointed to several different online recipes, but a popular choice was the Lyle’s recipe itself. Next, I veered again to the market because the recipe called for dates and that’s not an item with which I usually cook. Once that was bought, I headed to the kitchen (ok, maybe at half steam now…I was tired).
(Wait, what is Sticky Toffee Pudding, anyway? Isn’t it a cake?)
Pudding or cake?
Oh yes, I forgot to explain…to an American, pudding is soft, squishy, extremely yummy creamy custard, with flavors like vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, etc. To the British, pudding is a broader term referring to any dessert (although you can have savory puddings as well…think Yorkshire pudding). Here’s how pudding is defined at British Food: A History, “If you are British and trying to explain the word to a foreigner the answer is surprisingly difficult. In America, it is a simple answer: a dessert. … The true puddings are those that are boiled or steamed. Christmas puddings, suet puddings and sponge puddings fit into this category. In fact, anything boiled or steamed in a basin, cloth or handy piece of intestinal tract is a pudding.”
The site goes on that STP isn’t really a true pudding (it’s not boiled or steamed), blah, blah, blah…frankly my head started to hurt and really, does it matter? Let’s just agree that STP is a sponge cake made with chopped dates and served warm with toffee sauce (and vanilla ice cream). (Why didn’t you say so in the first place?)
The recipe is adapted from the Lyle’s website…I interpreted it for US readers as needed. You’re welcome.
To my American eye, the names of some of the ingredients (black treacle, bicarbonate of soda, stoned dates) seem exotic and precious. Maybe that’s just me. Anyway, some notes:
- I used Grandma’s Molasses (unsulfured, not blackstrap) for the black treacle
- Stoned dates just means pitted dates (get any Jerry Garcia references out of your head)
- Self-raising flour is just all-purpose flour with baking powder & salt added. For the 6 oz of flour in this recipe, I added 2 tsp of baking powder and ½ tsp salt
- Instead of one large pudding, I made 6 3-oz & 2 6-oz bowls (10 servings total), then decreased the baking time to 30 minutes
- The individual puddings can be frozen (minus the toffee sauce) and reheated for later
By the way, I don’t know if it was the specific can I purchased or a problem with Lyle’s in general, but when I held the can, there was a definite metallic taste on my fingers. I had to wash my hands each and every time before proceeding to the next step. Maybe some kind soul can tell me if this is normal.
The final product? Absolutely wonderful! It has the deep flavor of a molasses cake but much sweeter. The toffee sauce is yummy on its own poured over ice cream, or eaten straight with a spoon (although I will not confirm nor deny having done that). I liked having the serving size portion controlled…the 3 oz bowl was a good individual serving, although I would have shared it (maybe) so as not to over-indulge. I’ve even seen recipes where the puddings were baked in a muffin tin. I didn’t have any ice cream (gasp!). Instead I paired it with Hochstadter’s Rock & Rye…they were exceptional together!
This dessert is definitely going into my repertoire, especially since it’s something not often made in these parts (now that I see that it’s available on Amazon). Have you ever had to track down a specific ingredient just so you can make something you have a hankering for? How do you use Lyle’s golden syrup? Any special recipe for STP you’d like to share? Let me know your experiences with making this magical dessert! Now you have to excuse me…I hear toffee sauce calling to me…
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Lyle’s Splendidly Sticky Toffee Pudding
- parchment paper
- 6 oz dates (175g), pitted, roughly chopped
- 1 cup water (8 oz, 227g)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter (3 oz, 85g), at room temperature
- 6 Tbsp Lyle's Golden Syrup (4½ oz, 125g)
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar (2 oz, 50g)
- 1 Tbsp molasses, unsulfured, not blackstrap
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour (6 oz, 175g)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter (3 oz, 85g)
- 4-1/2 Tbsp Lyle's Golden Syrup (3½ oz, 95g)
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar (3 oz, 75g)
- 2/3 cup heavy cream (5 fl oz, 150ml)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F ( 180°C). Spray a 9- x 9-inch baking pan with baking spray, then line with parchment paper.
- Put the dates into a pan with the water, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda.
- Beat the butter, Lyle's golden syrup and brown sugar with the molasses until soft and creamy, then beat in the vanilla and eggs.
- Fold in the flour, baking powder, salt, and dates (with their liquid) and mix well to a soft consistency. Spoon into the prepared pan, and bake on the middle shelf for 30 minutes. Lightly cover with foil and cook for a further 15-20 minutes (until a fine skewer comes out clean when poked through the center).
- Meanwhile, put all the ingredients for the sauce into a medium-sized non-stick pan and stir together over a low heat until the brown sugar has dissolved.
- When the pudding is ready, cut into portions, pour over the warm toffee sauce and serve.