Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Herringbone's Sticky Toffee Pudding

I can just picture you right now, sitting at your patio table, thrilled to have a sweatshirt on because, you know, it's a little chilly in the shade right now, even with your cup of coffee. Even with your glass of pinot. You've got a notepad out with your favorite pen, because while you could do this on your iPad or phone, somehow it's just easier to think by writing. And what you're writing is your Thanksgiving menu and shopping list.

I'm still trying to find mine from last year, which I purposely kept because it was so hugely helpful to me--each dish with the ingredients listed and then a timetable for preparing everything. For an organized person I'm so annoyed with myself for not being able to find it--but I will! Unless puppy Casper ate it (nah, I can't blame him for it going missing).

Anyway, back to Thanksgiving list making. Along with the pies you're undoubtedly making, I have a suggestion for an alternative--or added--dessert: Sticky Toffee Pudding. I got to watch Herringbone's executive pastry chef Becky Kastelz make this last week and not only is it an easy dish to make, it is utterly sublime. Because, of course, I didn't just watch her make it, I ate a serving of it while chatting with her. The cake isn't dense like a fruit cake. It's soft and warmly sweet, thanks to brown sugar and honey dates that soaked with the baking soda, sugars, and butter in boiling water. And, yes, to the toffee sauce that soaked into the cake--more brown sugar and butter...and heavy cream. Pair it with the house-made orange almond ice cream and some candied almonds? Well, you shoulda been there.

Kastelz comes to San Diego from Texas, first near Dallas, where she was raised, and then Galveston, where she attended A&M University (yes, they also have a campus there), earning an education degree in marine science. When she figured out that marine science-type jobs were limited she decided to go to culinary school and studied European pastry at Houston Community College. Kastelz then launched her pastry career at local hotels before starting her own restaurant, Speculoos (named for the cookie). It was a breakfast and lunch cafe, but she also made wedding cakes. Unfortunately, Speculoos literally went under water--literally 10 feet under water--in 2008 with Hurricane Ike. So, she returned to hotel pastry jobs.

Four years ago, though, she moved to San Diego when her husband--also in hospitality--was transferred to a new job with Wyndham Hotels. And Kastelz eventually found her way to Herringbone. For the past year and a half, she's been supervising the dessert and pastry program at all the Herringbones and Searsucker. And, on occasion, still makes wedding cakes.

But right now, on the menu because it's such a perfect fall and winter dish, is this Sticky Toffee Pudding. One thing she does, which I've never seen, is plate it on a sweet potato puree, made with cinnamon, butter, and maple syrup. It's a family recipe that's so good she decided to include it in the dish.

One of the reasons why this dessert is such a great choice for a holiday meal is that so much of it can be made in advance and then plated when it's time to serve. You can even serve it family style on a platter.

Kastelz made this version gluten-free, using Cup4Cup gf flour (something you can purchase from  Amazon or Williams-Sonoma), but you can also go for the gluten with all-purpose flour. She also suggests making the cake batter at least a day in advance because, she said, it "settles down." You can also bake the cakes two to three days before you need them. And, you'll notice, Kastelz slices off the round top of the cake for serving (enjoying the scraps to snack on). You can bake them in conventional muffin tins or buy silicon cylinder molds, which is what Kastelz uses.
The sweet potato puree also isn't really time sensitive. It has a refrigerator shelf life of up to seven days. And toffee sauce, too, can be stored in the fridge for up to a week (but you'll have to reheat it before using). And, if you can resist noshing on the candied almonds, they, too, can hang out for awhile. To make them, just toss raw almonds in egg whites, then granulated sugar, spread on a sheet pan and toast at 300 degrees until just brown.

The recipes are straight forward. Plating is, too. First spread some sweet potato puree on a plate. Then place the cake on the puree. Pour the extra toffee sauce over and sprinkle the candied almonds. Kastelz also likes to add meringue kisses and the powder from crushed meringues. Then serve with ice cream.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
from Becky Kastelz of Herringbone
(printable recipe)
Serves 12

Date Toffee Cakes
Yield: 12 cakes

1 1/4 cups honey dates, pitted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoon (packed) brown sugar
12 ounces boiling water
1 egg + 1 yolk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons Cup4Cup or all-purpose flour

1. Place the dates in a bowl, add baking soda, butter, and sugars.
2. Bring water to a boil, then pour over ingredients in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 20-30 minutes to soften the dates.
3. Place the mixture into a blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Pour into a bowl.
4. Whisk in the eggs followed by salt. Sift the flour and whisk well into the batter. For best results, refrigerate batter overnight.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a muffin tin well with non-stick spray. Divide batter evenly into 12 muffins, about 2/3-full.
6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then gently remove.
7. While cakes are baking, prepare Toffee Sauce. After baking, soak each warm cake in sauce for about 30 seconds.
8. Place cake on serving plate; top with more Toffee Sauce if desired. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Toffee Sauce

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch kosher salt

1. Combine butter, sugar, vanilla into a medium saucepot and bring to a boil.
2. Add cream and return to a boil for 30 seconds. Add a pinch of salt.
3. Use immediately, or store in refrigerator up to 1 week.  Reheat before use.

Sweet Potato Puree
Yield: about 1 1/2 pints

2  pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¾ teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup medium brown sugar, packed
½ cup maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Place sweet potatoes and lemon juice in a medium/large saucepan.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 5-10 minutes, or until just barely fork tender.
2. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until butter and sugar are melted; set aside.
3. Once potatoes are done, remove from heat and drain potatoes; place in a 9x13” baking dish.  Pour sugar mixture over the potatoes and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.
4. Let cool to room temperature, then puree in a food processor or blender for several minutes until completely smooth.  Scrape down occasionally as needed to ensure the entire mixture is smooth.

*Note: the sweet potato puree has a shelf life of seven days. Do not freeze.

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