The quintessential British dessert – also known as sticky toffee pudding, may not be trendy (although it has its own acronym apparently, STP) like chocolate lava cake or de-constructed everything, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. Especially now that the weather is a bit cooler, a warm, rich dessert doesn’t sound half bad. Now, for the two most important thoughts on my mind, and I hope yours too: What makes a good sticky date pudding, and, where can you get the best sticky date pudding in the UAE?
Although known as a British dessert, rumour has it that it actually originated in Canada. Supposedly the dessert was created by an inn-owner in the Lake District in the 70s (Francis Coulson of Sharrow Bay Country House for those in the know), or an inn-owner in Claughton, who may have gotten the idea from a Canadian guest staying at her hotel.
What is actually in sticky date pudding?
The key ingredients are the finely chopped dates, treacle, and demerara or muscovado sugar. These, together with butter and water and/or milk, make it a very moist cake, especially when not baked too long. What makes it even moister is the toffee sauce that is absorbed. Some recipes recommend putting half of the sauce at the bottom of the dish before adding the batter. Another way to make it moister is to steam it rather than put it in the oven.
That moistness is one of sticky toffee pudding’s fine qualities, just like proper brownies should be moist. Although the recipes make it look like a heavy dessert, well-made sticky toffee should actually be a bit more balanced. It should rise and become lighter in the baking process. Of course when served with both the toffee sauce AND custard or ice cream that quality becomes non-existent. The texture of the pudding is also part of its charm. A bit coarser than normal sponge cakes, and if the dates are not pureed, the texture has a soft bite to it.
What about the sauce?
And of course, few people like to admit, but the real draw is the toffee sauce. For aficionados like me, it is good to know the difference between a toffee sauce, versus caramel sauce. Both toffee and butterscotch sauces are made with milk and/or cream and butter. Caramel sauce is made by burning white or refined sugar, combined with the above-mentioned milk or cream and butter. Toffee and butterscotch sauces are made with dark brown or muscovado sugar. And, let’s be honest, there can never be enough toffee sauce to go with pudding. It adds a whole other dimension to the dessert.
Writing this has made it impossible not to have sticky toffee pudding today, so here are a few suggested places to go to in the UAE. In Abu Dhabi, head to Rodeo Grill at the Beach Rotana Hotel & Towers, Koi at The Collection on Saadiyat Island, Coopers at Park Rotana, Le Café at Emirates Palace or Marco Pierre White Steakhouse and Grill at the Fairmont Bab al Bahr to satisfy your cravings. In Dubai, you may have shed a tear over Rivington Grill closing. Luckily you can still dive into some STP at The Ivy at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, The Catch at Fairmont, The Maine at the DoubleTree in JBR, The Scene at Pier 7, Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara at the Burj al Arab, Seafire Steakhouse at Atlantis, The Rib Room at Jumeirah Emirates Towers and Rhodes Twenty10 at Le Royal Meridien.