Born on a dairy farm in the Hunter Valley, baker Nadine Ingram cut her culinary teeth in the pastry kitchens of Michelin-star restaurants in London. On home shores, she found a love of working in bakeries and set up her own operation, Flour and Stone in Sydney. “Baking has always been so integral to who I am; there simply was no other path,” she says. We thank the heavens Nadine followed her heart – her signature Sticky Toffee Pudding is a sweet, syrupy must-have addition to any winter’s day.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
I’ve had my share of canings in the kitchen. After a stint at The Ivy as a chef de partie in the pastry section I jumped at the opportunity to take on the role of head pastry chef at Le Caprice (The Ivys little sister).
The chefs glass-walled office stood in the middle of the kitchen, giving him a birds eye view of the entire brigade. The sides of the room were flanked by bustling corridors where the chefs would scuttle from the prep areas to the service kitchen laden with the makings of all The Ivy classics. In the pastry section this was mountains of bombe Alaska and sticky toffee pudding. Hardly a week would go by without me being hauled into the office to be reprimanded for my sharp tongue and bolshie attitude ’ it almost became a ritual.
The caning I recall most vividly was when, at the end of his tether, the chef called me in and asked me if I had ever thought of doing something else. I had just spent the last 15 years of my life learning my craft and was now head of pastry at one of the best restaurants in London. So no, I was pretty clear about what I wanted to do with my life!
When I think about his question these days, I wonder what might be different if I had given it a second thought back then. I wonder where he is now and how many other chefs lives he may have affected with his lazy solutions. As it happened on that day, his idea seemed absolutely preposterous. Baking has always been so integral to who I am; there simply was no other path.
For the date mixture
- 250 g fresh dates, pitted
- 250 ml water
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso granules
Place the dates and water into a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until the dates are soft. Remove the pan from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda, stirring it through well with a wooden spoon to combine. The mixture will become molten for a moment but don't worry, just keep stirring until the eruption subsides, then stir through the espresso granules until dissolved. Pour the date mixture into a flat baking tray and set aside to cool completely.
For the pudding mixture
- 150 g unsalted butter, softened 250 g dark brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 180 g self-raising flour, sifted
Preheat the oven to 170°C and butter and sugar the inside of a 25cm round pudding bowl or baking dish. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes or until pale and fluffy (or use a bowl and a wooden spoon if the butter if very soft). Give the eggs a light beat with a fork, then gradually add them to the fluffy butter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula every now and then if you feel the egg is not incorporating with the butter.
Turn the machine off and remove the bowl (if using an electric mixer). Fold the flour through the cooled date mixture one third at a time, alternating with the flour until everything is well combined.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared bowl or dish and bake for 40-45 minutes while you make the caramel sauce.
For the caramel sauce
- 250 g caster sugar 100 ml water
- 250 ml pure cream
Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Stop stirring when it starts to boil and brush down the inside of the pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve any crystals that have formed on the surface of the caramel. Increase the heat to high and cook the caramel until it becomes a dark caramel colour. Be brave! A dark caramel is going to taste better than a pale sweet one. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cream without stirring. The caramel may splutter a little so stand back until it finishes its tantrum, then return it to low heat and stir with a spatula until the caramel is glossy, ensuring that all the sticky bits on the base of the pan have been incorporated. Remove the pan from the heat.
To test the pudding for readiness just insert a skewer into the centre. Ordinarily you would want to see the skewer come out clean, but in this instance I believe it is better for the centre to still be ever-so-slightly sticky as it will cook a bit more after it comes out of the oven.
Remove the pudding from the oven and, with oven mitts or a tea towel in each hand, immediately turn it out onto a serving plate. Pour some of the warm caramel sauce over the top, allowing it to drizzle generously over the sides.
Serve the pudding at the table with ice-cream and more caramel sauce.
In the unlikely event that the entire pudding is not demolished in one sitting it can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days, then covered with foil and reheated in a 150°C oven for 15 minutes. This is also a perfect pudding to freeze. When you want to eat it, thaw it in the fridge overnight, cover with foil and reheat in a 150°C oven for 25-30 minutes.
Dip into the Flour and Stone world of cult-status recipes in the beautiful book, Flour and Stone: Baked for Love, Life and Happiness.