Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Sticky toffee pudding - my kind of healthy!

I haven’t baked many desserts for E lately and after the lovely strawberry soup that wasn’t his thing I felt he was owed a dessert. I had one that was right up his alley. E loves sauce on anything and he seems to prefer toffee and butterscotch over a rich chocolate sauce – crazy, I know!

The Healthy(ish) Sticky Toffee Pudding was also my sort of thing. It intrigued me because it had carrot, parsnip and was gluten free. In fact I had bought buckwheat flour months ago with this recipe from Hippolyra at Fuss Free Flavours. E amused me while I was making it by asking where the toffee was. It seems he never made toffees with water and sugar as a child so he missed out on understanding that toffee is so simple.

Hippolyra found the recipe on a tv show called Cook Yourself Thin. She rightly points out that it is comparatively healthy rather than true blue health food. Now I like a healthy recipe as much as anyone but never at the expense of taste. I was amused by Hippolyra’s disclaimer that she ate the pudding with lashings of cream and sauce. So I will give you my disclaimer. The pudding was amazing but the sauce just didn’t quite work for us.

Indeed I would go as far as to claim that this is one of the best gluten free cakes I have made. It has lots of nuts but it was so soft and light and full of flavour. The first night I forgot to put it in a container and it was still fresh and soft the next night. I think the small amount of flour and the grated vegetables made an important contribution to the lovely texture. But it was so rich that after eating a quarter each the first night, we reduced our servings to an eighth each the next two nights.

But the sauce just didn’t gel. Literally! The recipe said to simmer the sauce til it thickened. I simmered it quite a while (too long I think) and it still was thin as water and meanwhile developing unattractive black specks (see photo below). When I looked at Hippolyra’s picture again she had a lovely creamy sticky brown sauce – maybe she was wise not to add the black tea!

Once I had lost faith in the sauce I had to go back to a trusted sticky toffee sauce and threw half a pot of cream and a slab of butter and a few spoons of brown sugar in a saucepan and melted it all together. Sadly I can tell you the standard sauce was far better than the healthy sauce (see top photo). I am no dieter. I prefer a little luxury every now and again rather than a poor imitation regularly. However maybe another time I will try the healthy version, especially as the cake worked so well.

It was a fine treat. I can recommend it to you as a healthier or a gluten free alternative. And (to quote a favourite Fozzy Bear joke from a Muppets annual which came out when Star Wars was quite popular) may the sauce be with you!

Healthyish Sticky Toffee Pudding
(from Cook Yourself Thin via Fuss Free Flavours)
(Serves 4-8)

For the cake:
100g chopped stoned dates
80ml boiling water
100g nuts (I used hazelnuts and cashews, Hippolyra used almonds)
1 tsp honey
1 egg
40g buckwheat flour (or white wheat flour)
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g grated parsnip
75g grated carrot
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp black treacle
Pinch of salt

40g unsalted butter
20g black treacle
20g honey
40g soft brown sugar
½ mug black tea
Pinch of salt

*Note: Hippolyra was more free and easy with the recipe than me – using wheat flour instead of buckwheat, golden syrup instead of treacle, and a bit more vegetables than called for, so it seems quite a forgiving recipe.

Place stoned and chopped dates in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside.

Stone and chop the dates and place in a bowl and cover with 80ml of boiling water, leave to soak.

Grind nuts in food processor. Add remaining ingredients and puree. (NB Hippolyra says you can just stir in dates if you want them more chunky. Also for those with small food processors like me, this is a small recipe that will not overwhelm your food processor.)

Pour batter into a lined and greased 15cm square tin or a muffin tin. Bake at 190 C (375 F or gas mark 5) for 30 to 40 mins.

Meanwhile put all the sauce ingredients into a small saucepan. Gently bring to the boil. Boil for 3 minutes until ‘syrupy and glossy’ (that is what Cook yourself Thin says - I am still a bit dubious but it worked for Hippolyra). If it doesn't work, you can always fall back on the traditional cream, butter and brown sugar combination for the sauce but I recommend you try the healthy version.

Serve warm cake with lots of sauce, and cream if desired.

On the stereo:
Full Flyte 1965-1970: The Byrds


  1. I am glad that you liked it Johanna.

    Sorry about the sauce, I need to have another go at it - something told me at the time that the tea would be a bad idea.

    I am totally with E and sauce on anything. Food should be wet!

    1. for the sauce do not add the butter with the other at the begining ,and add half off the tea (i put coffe) .the butter add it at the end of the fire and stir untill all melt

  2. A much healthier version of the pudding indeed. Yum! I should make some soon before it's too late!

  3. that is my kinda healthy,too. dates are my favorite dried fruit, EVER. and honey, well, tastes good with everything.

  4. Mmm looks good! I tried to make a regular sticky toffee pudding but for some reason thought I didn't want it too mushy so I only poured the sauce on top before serving oh AND I forgot to add some of the liquid to the cake. I'm sure yours was much tastier than mine. =)

  5. I've had this recipe bookmarked for ages too - ever since the programme was on over here a few years ago. I'm so pleased to find out what it's like! I'm glad you managed to come up with a sauce to do justice to the cake - and I love the sunflower bowl you've got it photographed in!

  6. Mmmm that looks delicious. I wonder if I could sub something for the dates though (as stupid as it sounds, I can't eat fruit). SOrry to hear about the sauce. Happens to all of us sometimes. The sauce you did use looks yummy though :)

  7. This sounds heavenly! I'm totally intrigued by the veggies, but I think I'd need to come up with a different sauce myself!

  8. Okay, you've forced my hand. I was planning on skipping dessert tonight, but your sticky pudding just looks too good. Can't...resist...sugar!

  9. thanks Hippolyra - I really liked the idea of the tea but suspect I just didn't get what it was meant to be like and boiled it too long - but the pudding was great!

    thanks Anh - the weather is still fickle enough to have days when pudding is welcome - make the most of it :-)

    thanks Joanna - I wouldn't claim dates to be my favourite food but they do add so much to this pudding

    thanks Ashley - the sticky toffee puddings I have had have the sauce poured on at the last moment so I don't what you did was a problem - and the sauce will always make amends if you leave out some liquid from pudding - the joys of sticky date pud :-)

    thanks Lysy - I wish the healthier sauce had worked but was glad to see it worked with hippolyra - will be interested to hear from you if you make it - and glad you like the sunflower bowls - they are sentimental favourites

    thanks Vegetation - don't know how it would go without dates but maybe a bit of extra syrup or treacle would add the moisture and sugar (do you mean you never eat fruit or don't like the taste because you can't taste the dates in the pudding - promise and they do make it taste great)

    thanks Ricki - I am sure you would love the pudding but would be interested to see what sauce you would come up with

    thanks Monika - I take no responsibility for your dessert except to say you wont regret this one :-)

  10. That looks so amazing, you must have got brownie points for that, lots of brownie points!

    I think Graham would faint with joy if I laid this in front of him :)

  11. Thanks Holler - yes I did get lots of brownie points - E was very happy with this and a generous dollop of cream (but I think it was great without cream)

  12. Just found your blog. What a gorgeous looking pud - definitely gonna try this.

  13. thanks Tales From the Birch Wood

    thanks Shirl - hope you enjoy the pudding (and my blog)

    thanks A Forkful - it's got vegies so it must be healthy :-)

  14. wow, sounds delicious!!
    Sticky date pudding iso ne of my all time favourites, but I may have to give this one a go, so I have just a slither of guilt wuith my dessert :)

  15. Oh it looks wonderful. You can't beat a sticky pudding on a cold day

  16. thank you so very much. i ate this once in england and it must be one of my top three fav desserts. now i have a healthy recipe as well.

  17. thanks Pea and Pear - it is not completely guilt free but a sliver of the stuff is fine (the guilt, I mean, help yourself to a large piece of pudding) :-)

    thanks Katie - I bet you have lots of lovely pudding weather to look forward to :-)

    thanks Bee - the english know how to enjoy pudding, don't they?

  18. I came over because I read in the comments in "a wee bit of cooking" that you have a healthier veggie version of sticky toffee pudding, and I couldn't resist finding out more. this sounds fab, and even better that it's gluten-free. I'm going to give it a go soon.

  19. to make a nice sauce do not add the butter with the other ingridients , after the sugar is melt , take it of from the fire and add the cold butter stir untill is compleatly melt in to the sauce .


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