Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Let me start by saying, Australian winter is incredibly mild, so I feel silly complaining about the cold. But the truth is, I really do feel the cold. If the temperature is below about 23°C, I can tell, and I need to go and find a jacket. It’s not unusual for me to be wearing a light cardigan in the middle of summer, I must be cold blooded or something.
I spend most of winter looking at the strappy tops and bright colours in my wardrobe and pining for warmer weather. But there are some things that I have loved about winter in Sydney lately, that make these months bearable… maybe even special.
- Chai tea lattes from the coffee shop around the corner from college
- My bright blue coat, and favourite white scarf – definitely my winter fashion essentials.
- Slipping back into bed for a few minutes (if time permits) after a hot shower in the morning
- Hearty, warming and filling meals like shepherds pie, lasagne or minestrone
- Watching the three State of Origin games with my dad
- The fireplace in our lounge room. It gives the room such a great atmosphere as well as an intense warmth.
- Wonderful winter days that start off with crisp mornings, that mature into glorious, sunny and nearly warm by lunchtime, just in time for a brisk walk before my next class begins.
- I am not a fan of it being dark when I wake up in the mornings but I take a certain satisfaction out of seeing the sun just-risen in the east as I drink my coffee in the kitchen.
Another thing I actually look forward to about winter is pudding, and in particular, Sticky Date. I am slightly ashamed to admit that my first sticky date pudding was a frozen one from Sara Lee but, either it was really good for a mass-manufactured dessert or I was too young to know better! When winter came around this year, I knew I had to try and make my own. And it looks like JenJen from Milk and Cookies feels the same as I do, although there is no way I would be able to choose a last meal without some careful deliberation!
I am completely in love with Kate Zuckerman’s book The Sweet Life. Her instructions are so clear and concise it is almost impossible to go wrong. So many recipes have caught my eye, it was a struggle to decide which one to try first. The addition of coffee to the date cake was interesting, and added a little zing perfectly offset by the complex but not overpowering taste of the spices. I used treacle in the toffee sauce, because I didn’t quite have enough golden syrup. It gave the sauce a deep colour and almost smoky taste. I could eat it by the spoonful!
Sticky Date Pudding
Adapted from The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman
• 1 cup pitted dates
• 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (I would use brandy next time)
• 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
• 170g butter, at room temperature
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 4 eggs
• 1 ¾ cups plain flour
• ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
• ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
• 55g butter
• ½ cup brown sugar
• ¼ cup sugar
• ¼ cup treacle (I will use golden syrup next time)
• ½ cup heavy cream
• 2 tablespoons brandy
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F) and line a rectangular baking pan with baking paper.
2. In a small bowl, combine dates, brandy and espresso powder. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the dates and allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes to cool. Transfer the date mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth.
3. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each.
4. In another bowl, sift the flour, spices and salt. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and mix on low speed.
5. Add the baking soda to the date mixture and stir with a wooden spoon. Add this to the cake batter and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Add remaining dry ingredients.
6. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula and mix for another 30 seconds.
7. Pour into prepared cake pan and even out the top with a spatula. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool for at least 40 minutes before removing from the baking pan.
8. To make sauce, combine butter, brown sugar, white sugar, treacle and 1 tablespoon of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes and remove from the heat and let cool until it is just warm.
9. Add the cream 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking after each addition, then whisk in brandy.
10. Remove from the heat and serve warm, with a piece of warm date cake.