When I want to have friends over for a little dinner party my night of choice is Friday. By the end of the week I am always itching to have a bit of fun and Friday is the beginning of my weekend so why not jump in feet first!
If I lived in a place where I could walk to a decent restaurant and sit with friends over some good food wine then that would also be part of my weekend agenda. Alas this is not the case, so I have learned to create an intimate restaurant atmosphere in my house and, sometimes that includes serving a luscious dessert that I imagine being brought to my table by some white-aproned waiter.
This past Friday was one such evening in my little pretend Chez Tess bistro and I made a dinner that allowed me to sit like one of my customers and enjoy the atmosphere along with everyone else. This dessert was something I could prep ahead of time and then pop in the oven while we were eating dinner. It is based on a great Jamie Oliver recipe but I did change some of the ingredients both out of a desire to make it my own, as well as for some practical reasons: I didn’t want to tromp off to the supermarket to get self-rising flour for one!
He also used ovaltine which is an instant sweet malted-milk powder and I didn’t have it, or care to use it so I went with unsweetened cocoa powder instead to give it a deeper chocolate taste (it would also curb the sweetness). The thing that would have been a sin to mess with was the addition of dates. He used fresh fruit but I had some unctuous dried Medjool dates that I knew would work the same if not better.
Dinner was amazing but the dessert is how I will remember this evening. Making the effort to create an intimate relaxing atmosphere and cooking dinner for my friends is worth mustering up that last ounce of energy I have left by Friday. I hope you are inspired.
You will need:
8 oz dry medjool dates (about 2 cups) – pitted
1 tsp baking soda
6 tbs unsalted butter – room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp pumpkin spice (found in spice aisle)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbs plain yogurt or sour cream
for Toffee Sauce:
8 tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup soft light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cram
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tsp confectioners sugar
Preheat oven 350*
1 – Put pitted dates in a bowl and sprinkle with baking soda and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 5 minutes and then drain. Pop into your food processor and blend until you have a nice puree. Set aside.
2 – Place dry ingredients in a small bowl (flour, spices, baking powder and cocoa powder) and mix together with a hand whisk. In large bowl cream the sugar and butter together until it is pale and smooth (about 3 minutes). Add eggs one at a time and whisk. Add the flour mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Fold in the yogurt (or sour cream) and then the date puree. Place in a buttered oven proof dish (I used a loaf pan but any dish will do) and place in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
3 – Place on a wire rack to cool (remembering to serve while still warm!)
4 – Make toffee sauce by placing the toffee ingredients into a small bowl and heating on low heat until everything is melted and smooth and has taken on a darker, richer color.
5 – Next add the heavy cream to a bowl and add 2 teaspoons of confectioners sugar and whip until nice and thick.
Place pudding on the bottom and spoon some toffee sauce over top and a dollop of whipped cream. I added a little flourish of grated chocolate to finish it off!