What you need for 8 little puddings:
For the puddings:
3oz unsalted butter
5oz soft brown light muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
6 oz self-raising flour
6 oz pitted Medjool dates chopped
6 fl oz boiling water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the sauce:
6 oz soft brown light muscovado sugar
4 oz unsalted butter
a large (300 ml) carton of single cream
What you do:
Firstly measure out the butter and sugar for the puddings into a large bowl and leave on one side until the butter is at room temperature. You can weigh out the butter and sugar for the sauce at the same time and put them in a saucepan. Get the eggs out of the fridge, if that's where they live - they too need to be at room temperature. Do not omit this stage of the preparations - the temperature of the ingredients is critical to success (and your own sanity)!
Some time later, when you are ready to make the puddings, preheat the oven to 180 C (170 C if using a fan oven).
Pour 6 fl oz boiling water over the chopped dates in a small bowl. Add the vanilla extract (make sure it's the real McCoy that comes in those rather expensive, dark brown bottles) and the bicarbonate of soda. The mixture will look like this.
Cream the butter and sugar for the puddings until pale and fluffy, with an electric whisk, if you have one. You can do it by hand with a wooden spoon but I am lazy and use the electric option. Even so, it takes a bit of time to get the correct pale and fluffy texture. Persevere, it will happen! You may need to bash down the odd lump of brown sugar with the end of your (stationary!) whisk or your wooden spoon as you get going.
Break in the eggs and whisk them into the mixture.
Now whisk in the flour. Recipes often say fold in the flour at this stage but I just whisk it in with my trusty electric whisk. The mixture will now look like this. You can do all this in the food processor, if you prefer, but I think you get better results with the whisk method and there's less washing up.
Tip in the date mixture.
Combine well. What you now have is this.
You are now ready to cook the puddings. I use individual aluminium pudding basins but you can use any small oven-proof containers, such as little porcelain or glass ramekins. You need 8 containers and you need to do something to help the little puddings unmould nicely, when they are cooked. I used to grease the basins and cut small discs of baking parchment to go in the bases, but more recently I have discovered a magical non-stick baking spray, which works, well, like magic!
I think the spray is a combination of a fine oil and an emulsifier such as lecithin. It looks a bit freaky when it comes out of the can - a bit reminiscent of that expanding insulating foam that builders use but get past this; it works like a dream and I won't be returning to the greasing and paper disc method. You can get Bake Easy spray from here and other specialist baking suppliers. Anyway, prepare your tins or ramekins according to your chosen method.
Spoon the mixture into the tins.
Place them on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes at 180 C (or 170 C if your oven is hot like mine). They rise most satisfactorily. When they are a beautiful golden brown and just firm to the touch. remove from the oven and allow to cool. You can do all this way in advance, if that suits you.
For the sauce, you just pour the carton of single cream, yes, all of it!, into the saucepan that contains the butter and sugar you have already measured out and heat gently.
The dissolving brown sugar, butter and cream marble beautifully.
What you end up with, once everything has melted and dissolved, is this.
You can serve the puddings and sauce straightaway or reheat both. The puddings take about 10 mins in a warm oven and just reheat the sauce gently on the hob.
I like to serve each pudding veiled with some of the tawny, translucent sauce poured over the top and with the rest of the sauce separately in a jug, for people to add more if they want.