A spoonful of something sweet: sticky date pudding with poached autumn fruits, hazlenut praline and clotted cream
Here at Country Homes & Interiors we’re all big fans of pudding now dusk is getting earlier and the need to go home to a bowl of something comforting is the order of the day. This wonderful combo of toffee, hazlenuts and autumn fruits is rich but somehow manages to be light in texture too. Just the thing for autumn nights…
340g pitted dates
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
120g butter, plus extra to grease
340g caster sugar
4 free range eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
clotted cream, to serve
For the poached autumn fruits
2 large quince (poached and sliced)
300g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
1 2 1/2 cm piece of cinnamon stick
juice of 1 lemon
2 large Cox’s apples, peeled, quartered and cored
2 large Comice pears, peeled, quartered and cored
For the toffee sauce
150g caster sugar
80ml double cream
For the hazelnut praline
50g toasted blanched hazelnuts
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp cold water
You will also need: a 30 x 20 x 5cm cake tin
1 Start with the hazelnut praline. Lay the toasted hazelnuts on to a small tray covered with greaseproof paper and place to one side. Place the sugar and water in a small clean saucepan over a high heat, and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly until the sugar has turned into a dark caramel. Pour the caramel over the hazelnuts and allow to cool at room temperature for 2 hours, until set hard. Break up the praline into pieces and pulse in a food processor into course crumbs. Set aside until ready to serve.
2 While the praline is cooling, prepare the poached fruits. The quinces take much more cooking than the apples and pears, so it’s a good idea to poach them separately beforehand and just add them to the cooked compote at the end. To poach the quinces, peel them, leaving them whole, place in a saucepan and cover with the water and sugar. Add the vanilla seeds, cinnamon and the lemon juice (this prevents the quinces discolouring). Cover the surface of the liquid with a disc of baking parchment and bring the mixture to the boil. Turn down to a gentle simmer and poach until soft. The poaching time will vary depending on the size and ripeness of the fruit but it may take up to 20 minutes. Once cooked, leave the quinces in the poaching syrup to cool. Slice each apple and pear quarter into about 3 wedges. Place into a saucepan and add enough of the quince poaching syrup just to cover the apples and pears. Bring to the boil and turn down to a gentle simmer. Poach until the fruit is soft – about 5–7 minutes – then remove from the heat. Remove the quinces from the poaching syrup, cut into wedges and add to the apples and pears. Set aside until ready to serve then gently reheat the fruit in the poaching syrup.
3 For the pudding, preheat your oven to 160ºC/Gas Mark 3. Grease the inside of the cake tin with butter, then dust with flour. Give the tin a couple of taps over the sink to release any excess flour. Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan. Add the dates and simmer for a couple of minutes, until they have softened. Mix in the bicarbonate of soda and allow the mixture to stand for about 10 minutes. The bicarbonate of soda will break the dates down further so they are easily distributed through the pudding. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition, before adding the next. Sift the flour and baking powder together then stir them into the egg mixture. Add the date mixture and the vanilla extract and mix well until all the ingredients are well combined. Don’t worry if the mixture seems a little wet. Pour into the prepared tin, allowing plenty of room for the pudding to rise. Place the tin on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. To test if it’s ready, push the blade of a small knife or a skewer into the centre. If it comes out clean, the pudding is ready. Allow to cool in the tin for 30 minutes before turning out carefully on to a wire cooling rack. Once cool, trim the edges from the cake and slice into 12 even-sized squares. Wrap each portion in clingfilm and store in the fridge until serving.
4 When ready to serve, make the toffee sauce. Place the sugar into a heavybased pan and mix in the water so all the sugar is wet. Heat the pan over a medium-high heat to melt the sugar and bring it to the boil. Have a pastry brush and a glass of water to hand to brush down the sides of the pan should any sugar crystals start to form. Once the sugar has reached a dark caramel, switch off the heat and gently stir in the cream, followed by the butter. Be very careful as it will boil violently when the cream hits the hot caramel. Keep stirring until you have a smooth sauce, then keep warm over a low heat.
5 To serve, reheat the pudding portions in a low oven then transfer to serving bowls. Spoon over the warm poached fruits and pour the toffee sauce liberally over the top. Finish with a generous spoonful of clotted cream and a light sprinkling of hazelnut praline. Any remaining pudding will keep for 5 days in a sealed container in the fridge.
*Recipe from Roast: A Very British Cookbook (£25, Absolute Press), out now. Photograph: Lara Holmes
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