Saturday, April 10, 2010

Weekend Cooking...A Story About the Best Dessert in the World

My post, which ultimately will get to a recipe for the very best dessert I have ever had, starts with a story. Hopefully, you will enjoy one or the other.
Some years ago, I went on a spur of the moment trip to Ireland alone. I had a week or two off, no plans and before I knew it, I had an airplane ticket, a car rental and no plan at all for where to go.

I left Shannon airport and headed south, to the very beautiful southwest and southern coast of Ireland. Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, Kinsale and of course, a trip to the Dingle Peninsula. As to Dingle, I arrived well into the day, got a hotel room in town and set out by car to drive out along the beautiful coast and visit the fascinating Gallarus Oratory. But leaving, as the sun was starting to set, and trying to find my way back to town, I got lost. I admit I have a bad sense of direction. Not a house or a person in sight and, all alone, I was a bit concerned. Nowhere can get as dark as the Irish countryside..
Happily, after driving over many a hill and around many a dale, I came upon a small settlement. A few houses, a tavern and...thank goodness..a thriving restaurant. A lovely little spot where I had a wonderful meal (as I remember, fresh scallops, the roe still attached as the Irish do) and was able to get some directions to town.

The next day, after the adventure of the evening before, I decided to stay in town and explore. As sometimes happen in Ireland, after a few hours, a soft mist started to fall (translate...pouring rain) and so, now chilly, damp and hungry, I happened upon a cozy looking restaurant, The Beginish. Another great meal ensued. There was a delicious seafood chowder, an entree I can't remember and then it came time for dessert. Would I have dessert they asked? Yes, I would, thank you, and ordered the oddly named Sticky Toffee Pudding, something I had never had before. Now pudding to the Irish can mean any number of types of dessert and this was in fact a cake of sorts. A warm, extremely moist dark cake, seemingly soaked with caramel and topped with a softly whipped cream.
It was wonderful, without doubt, the very best dessert I have ever had. Ever.

The least I think it is funny...conclusion to the story. Years later, I was taking to my brother and somehow the topic of desserts came up. At the same time we both said, "The best dessert I have ever had was the sticky toffee pudding at the Beginish in Dingle". One little dessert, in one little restaurant, in the small town of Dingle, thousand of miles away and years apart.

So, the recipe. If you Google Sticky Toffee Pudding you will, in fact, find a number of references to this dessert and the recipe from the Beginish, that was printed in Bon App├ętit some time ago. Sadly it seems that The Beginish no longer exists, but happily the recipe does.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

* 8 ounces dates, finely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups packed)
* 1 cup boiling water
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
* 4 large eggs
* 1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
* 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* Powdered sugar
* Whipped cream
* Caramel Sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter parchment. Place chopped dates in small bowl. Pour 1 cup boiling water over dates and let cool, about 1 hour.
Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl to blend. Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add half of flour and beat to blend. Add remaining 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Add remaining flour and beat until blended. Combine instant coffee and baking soda in small bowl. Pour into date mixture, stirring to dissolve coffee granules. Add date mixture to batter and beat to blend. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place on rimmed baking sheet and bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

FYI..I bake mine in individual tart pans, for about 25 minutes, until a tester came out clean. DO NOT over baked or they will not be moist. Served with ice cream and a bit of a crushed Skor bar, an idea I read in a comment on the recipe site. 
Then, since I was alone, I was forced to eat it. 
Oddly, it does not taste of the coffee..or the dates. It tastes of extreme yummy-ness. 

Cool pudding until just warm. Unmold; sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into wedges, top with warm caramel sauce and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Caramel Sauce

* 2 cups whipping cream
* 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
* 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Bring cream, brown sugar and butter to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer sauce until reduced to 1 3/4 cups, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Before using, rewarm over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.)

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. This looks delicious! I'm impressed that you set off on such an adventure alone and without a plan...

  2. Wow, this sounds so good! Anything with dates in it is good as far as I am concerned. This recipe actually made my mouth water. Guess it's time for breakfast. Have a great weekend, wee Caite!

  3. What a great story - and recipe!

  4. Fabulous story -- I love those types of coincidences.

    And the dessert? OMG. Must.Make.Soon.

  5. I love the story and the recipe! I hope to one day be able to travel like that on the spur of the moment.

  6. Oh wee Caite, someday you and I will have to meet at a lighthouse and trade stories of traipsing off to exotic places on the spur of the moment...

    I've decided I just may have to ignore the food police and try this one. I adore toffee and caramel.

    You temptress you............

  7. I had to est the one in the picture..afterall the ice cream was melting!
    but I brought the rest to my brother's and they agreed it was delicious.
    I took the individual cakes, topped them with a spoon of the now cold, rather solid sauce and heated them in the microwave for about 45 seconds, until the sauce melted. little scoop of ice cream and it was ready to serve

  8. this sounds heavenly. I have copied the recipe, thanks.

  9. Oh! I really want to try this recipe now! I absolutely loved the story. Thanks so much for sharing this - I'm excited to try this.

  10. I love sticky toffee pudding! Thanks for the recipe. Oh dear, I'm trying to lose weight - this won't help, will it?

  11. You,ve got my mouth watering something fierce. Auntie Grace

  12. Wow! I believe that I have had two of my relatives comment on this post...that is an all time first! ;-)

  13. I love both the story and the look/sound of the cake. I want to try it.

  14. This looks scrumptious! Was it difficult to prepare? Toffee is one of my favorite things. :)

  15. it was...if I do say so myself..very, very tasty. and really quite easy to make.

    I froze some of the left over bits, nuke it to reheat and it was just as good!

  16. What a wonderful adventure, with a happy (and tasty!) ending. Funny that your brother ended up in the same place, years later.


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