Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When A House Becomes A Home

Mortgage. *shudder*

If there's a scarier word in the English language, I've yet to encounter it. Nothing good starts with mort. Think about it - you have mortician, mortuary, mortality, mortification. Now combine mortgage with another word, payments, and I don't know about you, but it makes me break out into a flop sweat.

If it wasn't for those pesky mortgage payments, and the legal mumbo jumbo that comes with it, I'd be a much happier homeowner. Wouldn't we all? Now I've jumped the gun. I should have started off by telling you all that I am now a first time homeowner! Yes, I'm no longer a property virgin. My nomadic days are over for the moment, and I've finally put my roots down in the good 'ol state of Michigan. I have my very own house, nay, a home. We've renovated it so much since we bought it, that it feels like we've always been here, when it's really only been less than 2 months.

As a result of being happy new homeowners, we are dealing with all the anxiety that comes with the package. All our bills are suddenly larger. Which was expected, but it's another thing to come face-to-face with them. As a matter of fact, I'm getting a little light-headed as I'm typing this! I need to smother my paranoia in a bowl of sweet, blissful comfort. Nothing short of sticky toffee pudding will do the trick. Just saying it out loud makes me sigh in contentment.

Sticky. Toffee. Pudding.

Hell. Yeah.

Alright, so it's not the prettiest dessert. You won't be impressing any fancy dinner guests by parading this baby on to the table. It's brown. All the ingredients are brown. The dates are brown. The sugar is brown. But brown is cozy. It's comfy. One bite and it will have those fancy dinner guests licking their dessert bowls shamelessly, and kissing the ground you walk on, mark my words.

I used to have dates lounging around in my pantry for months after Ramadan. I didn't know they had much use outside of the holy month, to be honest with you. But I was dead wrong. In this dessert, their luscious, caramel-y sweetness becomes concentrated and magical. Get the Medjool variety of dates if you can - they're juicier and softer than the rest.

Sticky Toffee-Date Pudding (courtesy of the divine Nigella Lawson from Nigella Bites)
Serves 6-8

Ingredients for the cake:
1/4 cup butter, melted - plus extra for the baking dish
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup + 2 tbsp self-rising flour
1/2 cup whole milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped dates

For the sauce:
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 375 F and butter a 1.5 quart capacity baking dish.

2. Combine sugar with flour in a large mixing bowl.

3. Whisk together the melted butter, egg, milk and vanilla, then pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and stir together slowly with a wooden spoon. Incorporate the dates into it, then scrape the whole thing into your baking dish and spread it out.

4. For the sauce, sprinkle the brown sugar over the cake mixture and dot with blobs of butter.
5. Then pour the boiling water over the entire thing and bake it in the oven for 50 mins. The top of the dessert should be springy and spongy, and underneath, the sauce will be bubbling and brown and richly decadent. Let the pudding rest for 10 mins before serving it with vanilla ice-cream or regular heavy cream.

Verdict: I look at this dessert and .. and ... well ...*Swoon*. As you can see, I prefer the heavy cream. It has the added benefit of soaking into the warm pudding, and making it even more luxurious on the tongue. Gawd, I can't believe I still have some left over the fridge. Must go remedy that situation straightaway.

So yes, when you need to relax and smile and forget about life's insignificant stresses, this is the dessert you need to make.

Or you can spend some time with this guy right here. Same effect.