Well not that kind of date, but if you have any suggestions, I’ll take them! I’m talking about that little jeweled fruit that is succulent when fresh and candy-like when dried. Fresh dates are typically available in the fall, so you’ll be lucky to find any still hanging out in the grocery stores right now. Perhaps some specialty markets still have them, but dried dates are available all year long.
So when your friends are having a potluck for the holidays and you are asked to bring the dessert, what do you make? Sticky Toffee Pudding, of course! This is one of our all-time favorite recipes at The Chopping Block. I think most of us look forward to the holiday classes and private events in hope that we get to work one that has this dessert on the menu and have the chance enjoy a piece.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Yield: 12-15 servings
Active time: 30 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour, 20 minutes
For the cake:
12 ounces dates, pitted and roughly chopped
2 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick softened butter, cut into pieces
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the butterscotch sauce:
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
7 tablespoons butter
1 cup half & half
1 teaspoon brandy
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to medium peaks, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and cover the bottom with parchment. Butter the parchment and set aside.
- Combine the dates and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and gradually stir in the baking soda (mixture will foam up). Set aside.
- Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl.
- Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the sugar to the butter and cream until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix until combined. Mix in vanilla.
- Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture and 1/3 of the dates and water, and mix until combined. Repeat until all the flour mixture and the dates are incorporated into the batter.
- Pour into the prepared pan and bake about 40 minutes, or until firm and set in the center.
- Allow to cool in the pan. Once cool, invert onto a sheet tray and peel off the parchment paper.
- To prepare the butterscotch sauce, combine the brown sugar, butter, half and half and brandy in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
- When ready to serve pudding, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Pour the sauce evenly over the top of the cake. Bake until the sauce is bubbly and the cake is heated through, about 5 minutes.
- Cut into squares and serve with a dollop of the whipped heavy cream.
If you aren’t charged with bringing dessert, but rather an appetizer, Bacon Wrapped Dates are always crowd pleasers! They are the perfect combination of sweet and salty, made even better with a drizzle of Cream of Balsamic for the sour punch as well. Stuff them with Marcona almonds before you wrap them with bacon and you’ll get a nice texture contrast.
Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Cream of Balsamic
Yield: 6-8 servings
Active time: 10 minutes
Start to finish: 25 minutes
24 dates, pitted
8 strips of bacon, cut into thirds
Cream of Balsamic
3 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
- Preheat the oven to 375º.
- Wrap a piece of bacon around one date, making sure to overlap the ends of the bacon. Use a toothpick to secure. Continue until all dates are wrapped.
- Place on a parchment-lined sheet tray and bake for about 15 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.
- Transfer to a platter and drizzle with Cream of Balsamic. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve.
Now, you have no excuse/dilemma of what to bring for the last few holiday gatherings. If you need more help, check out Shelley’s video on How to Make Bacon Wrapped Dates.