Rhubarb & Caramelised White Chocolate Choux Nuts

Pastry

Crisp choux pastry, sharp roast rhubarb with a hint of vanilla, and butterscotch-sweet caramelised white chocolate cream; a delicious combination you’ve got to try, and a great way to celebrate seasonal British produce (and millennial pink… *sigh*).

Ingredients (makes 10-12)

For the choux

  • 85g unsalted butter
  • 220ml water
  • 100g plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch of salt

For the filling

  • 250g white chocolate (make sure it’s at least 30% cacao)
  • 300ml double cream
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 thick stems rhubarb
  • 3tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods or 1tsp vanilla extract
  • Juice and zest 1 lemon

For the topping

  • 100g icing sugar
  • Enough of the rhubarb syrup (leftover from roasting the rhubarb) to create an icing with a drizzle-consistency
  • Dried rose petals (optional)
  • Candied rhubarb ribbons (optional) (I make these by creating ribbons of rhubarb with a peeler, which I then simmer in a simple 2 parts sugar: 1 part water syrup for 5 minutes before draining off any excess liquid and cooking at 160c for 10-15 minutes, or until dried out, on a lined baking tray)

Method

  1. To make the choux put the water, butter and salt in a saucepan set over a medium heat (do not let it boil at this stage). Meanwhile, sieve the flour to remove any lumps. When the butter has melted into the water, increase the heat and bring to a rolling boil, then tip in the flour and stir vigorously until you have a smooth paste-like mix which comes away from the edges of the pan. Continue to stir for another minute to cook out the rawness of the flour, then tip into a clean bowl and close cover with cling film (this eggless stage is known as a ‘panade’). Leave to cool to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190c. Line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  3. Once the panade has cooled it’s time to add the eggs; whisk in a jug to break them up then very gradually add into the panade while beating with electric beaters. Stop adding the egg (you might have a little leftover) when the smooth, lump-free mixture reluctantly drops off the end of a spoon. Pile the choux mix into a piping bag, fitted with a large round nozzle.
  4. Pipe 10-12 doughnut shapes onto the prepared baking trays, leaving room for expansion. Bake the choux for 20-25 minutes or until crisp and golden, then skewer each one and return to the oven for around 10 minutes or until the middles have completely dried out. Set aside to cool and reduce the oven temperature to 180c.
  5. Slice the rhubarb into batons and toss in the caster sugar, lemon juice and zest and vanilla. Roast for 10-15 minutes in a high sided baking tray until the pieces are tender but still retain their shape. Set aside to cool and reduce the oven temperature to 120c.
  6. Chop up the white chocolate and scatter on a lined baking tray in an even layer. Place in the oven to allow the chocolate to melt for 10 minutes, then stir/turn and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Repeat this step 2-3 more times until the chocolate reaches a deep golden colour, then scrape into a bowl and mix in a splash of cream to loosen the consistency (it can get a little grainy at this stage so pass through a sieve if necessary). Leave to cool.
  7. Once the white chocolate has cooled, place in a bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and add in the cream and salt. Whisk until pipe-able.
  8. Slice the cooled choux nuts in half horizontally and pipe in a generous helping of caramelised white chocolate cream. Slice the roast rhubarb pieces thinly and arrange these on top of the cream, then pop the choux lid on top.
  9. For the pink icing, pour the cooking syrup from the rhubarb tray into the icing sugar and mix to create a smooth drizzle-like consistency (add in a little water if you don’t have enough syrup). Spoon this over the filled choux-nuts and garnish with edible petals and rhubarb ribbons.
Enjoy!
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Spiced Hot Cross Bun Ice Cream

Uncategorized

Warm hot cross buns; spiced, zested and dripping in butter, are as synonymous with spring as blossom and Easter egg hunts. I find the flavour particularly nostalgic, so thought I’d apply it to one of my favourite things- ice cream. This is made up of a classic custard base (which I infused with cardamom, mixed spice and cinnamon), a buttered hot cross bun crumb and plump orange-soaked raisins. The result is so delicious we got through about 1.5l in three days (wouldn’t recommend this).

Ingredients

  • 400ml whole milk
  • 400ml double cream
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 10 cardamom pods, cracked
  • 1/2 fresh nutmeg, grated
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 50g light brown soft sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 225g hot cross buns
  • 1tbsp demerara sugar
  • 2tbsp butter
  • 75g raisins
  • juice and zest 1 orange

Method

  1. You will need an ice cream churner for this recipe. If the bowl of your churner needs freezing, do this the day before.
  2. Pour the milk and cream into a large saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick, nutmeg, cardamom pods and mixed spice.
  3. Gently heat the milk to scalding point (just as it starts to simmer) then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10-20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, caster sugar, soft light brown sugar and salt. Once this mixture is voluminous and light, strain the milk through a sieve and add in in a steady stream, whisking constantly.
  5. Pour the custard into a large clean saucepan and heat very gently, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, close cover and leave to cool completely.
  6. Preheat the oven to 190c. While the ice cream base is cooling, make the hot cross bun crumb. To do this simply blitz the hot cross buns into a coarse crumb, then tip into a large frying pan along with the butter and demerara sugar. Stir to coat the crumbs in the melted butter and once they begin to crisp, tip onto a lined baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool.
  7. Place the raisins in a small bowl along with the orange juice and zest. Leave them too plump up.
  8. Once your ice cream base is completely cool, churn it for about 10 minutes or until it’s starting to thicken. At this stage, add 3/4 of the hot cross bun crumb and most of the plumped raisins. Continue to churn until thick, then tip into a large lined container, top with the remaining crumb and raisins and freeze for at least 4 hours. At this point, it’s ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Quadruple Chocolate, Pistachio and Halva Cookies

Biscuits, Uncategorized

Soft, chewy, chocolate and rye cookie dough, molten chocolate chunks and nutty pockets of crumbled halva; all encased in a sea salt and pistachio crackle coating.

Ingredients (makes 18-22 cookies)

  • 250g soft, unsalted butter
  • 150g light brown soft sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • Sea salt
  • 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 175g plain flour
  • 100g rye flour
  • 50g good quality cocoa powder
  • 3/4tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 150g roughly crumbled halva
  • 100g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 125g pistachios, very finely chopped

Method

  1. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan then tip into a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer). Allow it to cool for a few minutes then add in both sugars and a pinch of salt. Cream together until light and fluffy.
  2. Once creamed, add in the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating well between each addition. In a separate bowl, stir together both flours, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cocoa powder. Add these dry ingredients into the wet, beating only until just combined (do not over mix).
  3. Now, using a wooden spoon, stir in the halva and all the chopped chocolate. Close cover with cling film and chill for at least 2 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 2 large trays with baking paper (you will need to bake the cookies in batches). Tip the chopped pistachios into a large bowl and add a generous pinch of sea salt. Stir.
  5. Take your chilled cookie dough and create equal balls using an ice cream scoop. Roll each ball of dough in the pistachio crumb, then arrange on the baking trays (I usually bake about 4 per tray to allow for spreading).
  6. Bake each batch for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven, sharply tap the tray on a flat work surface and return to the oven for 2-3 minutes. Repeat the tap step once more and bake for a further 2-3 minutes, or until the cookies are crisping up at the edges but still very soft in the middle.
  7. Once baked, leave to firm up a little on the baking trays, then serve.

Enjoy!

Sticky Ginger Cake with Labneh Icing and Blood Orange Syrup

Cakes

As much as I love a stacked sponge showstopper, sandwiched with buttercream and impeccably preened, there’s something deeply comforting about a single layered wedge of cake, rustically finished with dollops of tangy icing and a bit of fruit. This cake undoubtedly falls into the comfort category, and it’s now one of my favourites; ginger cake itself feels nostalgic to me*, but the slightly tangy labneh icing and citrus syrup topping make this one feel a little more modern.

*I don’t know why, I have no emotive family story to share about a recipe passed down through a long line of bakers- my Granny used to feed me M&S sandwich cakes straight from the freezer. I’ll bank that as character building.

Ingredients

For the labneh icing

  • 500ml Greek yoghurt
  • 3tbsp icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

For the cake

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt
  • 175g golden syrup
  • 3tbsp ginger syrup (from a stem ginger jar)
  • 125g butter
  • 4 balls stem ginger, diced
  • 125g light soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml milk

For the blood orange compote

  • 90ml blood-orange juice
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2tbsp water
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 additional blood oranges

Method

  1. Line a sieve with a muslin cloth and sit over a large bowl. Scrape the yoghurt into the sieve and loosely tie the muslin around it. Leave this in the fridge overnight for the liquid in the yoghurt to drain (this will leave you with a thickened mixture- labneh).
  2. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a high sided 9inch cake tin.
  3. Stir together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl. In a saucepan melt together the golden syrup, ginger syrup, butter, diced stem ginger and sugar. Bring to the boil for a minute then make a well in the dry ingredients and add the melted mixture. Stir together to eliminate any lumps then whisk the eggs and milk in a jug and add those in too and beat once more.
  4. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  5. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
  6. Meanwhile, make the blood orange syrup. To do this simply place the juice, sugar and water in a small saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved. At this stage split the vanilla pod and add in, then simmer for 3-4 minutes or until syrupy. Set aside to cool a little, then slice the 2 blood oranges into rounds, discarding the pith and skin. Add the slices into the syrup and stir. Leave to cool completely.
  7. Tip the strained yoghurt into a bowl and add the vanilla extract. Sift in the icing sugar and stir everything together until smooth.
  8. To assemble the cake, turn it out of the tin and roughly cover with the sweet labneh. Just before serving, arrange the blood orange slices on top and drizzle the syrup over.

Enjoy!

Salted Chocolate Cake with Coffee Mascarpone & Hazelnut Praline Caramel

Cakes

I made this cake last weekend for my Dad’s birthday and it went down a storm. Granted, the flavours aren’t subtle and it’s not for the faint hearted (which neatly mirrors my Dad’s personality actually), but the punchy combination of bitter coffee, nutty hazelnut, rich but surprisingly light chocolate sponge and salted milk chocolate ganache just work (duh- that amount of cream, sugar, salt and chocolate is always going to be delicious).

Ingredients (serves 12-14)

For the hazelnut praline caramel

  • 100g blanched hazelnuts, toasted
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100ml double cream
  • Generous pinch sea salt

For the sponges

  • 375g plain flour
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 85g cocoa powder
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • large pinch sea salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 325ml milk
  • 175ml vegetable oil
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 325ml just boiled water
  • 2tsp instant coffee

For the salted milk chocolate ganache

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 75g dark chocolate
  • 275ml double cream
  • Generous pinch sea salt

For the coffee mascarpone filling

  • 2tbsp instant coffee
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • 200g mascarpone
  • 100ml double cream

  1. Start off by making the hazelnut praline caramel.To do this simply place the caster sugar in a heavy bottom pan over a medium heat and swirl the pan until it melts. Once melted, up the heat until the sugar reaches a deep golden brown. At this stage add the toasted hazelnuts, stir to coat then tip onto a baking paper lined baking tray. Leave to set hard, then blitz into a paste. Set aside. Pour the cream into a saucepan and gently heat. Once the cream is gently simmering add in the praline paste and stir to create a caramel. Cook down for a few minutes until thickened, then set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch baking tins. Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in the microwave in short stints, stirring often). Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl stir together the flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. In a jug, lightly whisk the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the contents of the jug into it. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until well combined then add the melted chocolate and stir again (I just use a balloon whisk for this- nothing electric is required as you don’t need to incorporate much air).
  4. Pour your just boiled water over the instant coffee granules and once they’ve dissolved, gradually add to the chocolate batter, stirring gently with your whisk as you go. The final cake batter will be very thin but don’t worry, it bakes beautifully.
  5. Split the mix evenly between the prepared tins and bake for 45-55 minutes (until a skewer comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached). Once baked leave to cool completely in the tins.
  6. While the cakes are cooling make the ganache. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan until it meets scalding point then pour over the chocolate. Allow the cream to melt the chocolate for a few minutes then stir until smooth and glossy. Add salt to taste then set aside to cool.
  7. For the coffee mascarpone crush the coffee into a fine powder then just whisk together all the ingredients until smooth.
  8. When all the elements are cool you’re ready to assemble the cake. Your cakes will probably have a domed top, so trim these off then divide each one into two even layers (leaving you with 4 layers overall).
  9. Scrape the hazelnut praline caramel into a piping bag. Split the mascarpone into thirds. Spread one third of the mascarpone over the first sponge layer then pipe over a third of the caramel in a zigzag (so that each slice will have some caramel inside!). Repeat this step until you’ve used up the sponges, then rustically cover the whole cake in the thickened ganache.
  10. Garnish with edible dried flower petals.

Rhubarb, Rose and Halva ‘Cheesecake’ Pots (Vegan)

Uncategorized

These little dessert pots are really easy to throw together and make for a great plant based alternative to a conventional dairy cheesecake. The combination of sweet filling, salty crumble and tart but slightly floral rhubarb is delicious, and I love the contrasting textures too. Give them a try, and don’t hold back on the halva.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

For the sesame crumble

  • 75g rye flour
  • 25g plain flour
  • 50g coconut oil, chilled
  • 50g demerara sugar
  • large pinch salt
  • 2tbsp white sesame seeds

For the roast rhubarb

  • 250g rhubarb
  • 2-3tbsp caster sugar
  • 1tbsp rose water

For the ‘cheesecake’ mix

  • 250g dairy free cream cheese
  • 100g dairy free yoghurt
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Other ingredients

  • 100g plain halva
  • few dried rose petals (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. To make the crumble rub the coconut oil into the flours until the mix resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then stir through the sugar, salt and sesame seeds. Tip onto the prepared baking tray in one even layer and chill for 20 minutes (chilling will help keep any clumps of crumble together to create more texture once baked).
  3. Once chilled, bake the crumble for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, turning occasionally. Set aside to crisp up while you prepare the other ingredients.
  4. Slice the rhubarb into 2 inch batons and toss in the sugar and rose water. Line a high sided roasting tray with greaseproof paper and arrange the rhubarb pieces over the base in one layer. Roast for 15 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender but still holding its shape. Roughly shred half the rhubarb to form a compote consistency and leave the rest in whole pieces. Set aside to cool.
  5. While the rhubarb is roasting, make the ‘cheesecake’ mix. To do this simply whisk together the dairy free cream cheese, dairy free yoghurt, sugar and lemon zest until smooth (it will be looser in consistency than a classic dairy cheesecake, but the flavour is very similar and it works really well in a pot with the other ingredients). Chill.
  6. When all the elements are cool, you’re ready to assemble. Start off by distributing the shredded rhubarb between the pots to cover the bases. Now fill the pots to 3/4 full with the cheesecake mix. Add a generous spoonful of crumble on top, then a baton or two of rhubarb. Finish with a good sprinkling of crumbled halva and garnish with rose petals, if you like.

 

Mocha Banana Bread (Vegan)

Cakes, Uncategorized

This vegan banana bread is perfect if you’re after maximum taste pay off in exchange for minimal effort; the method calls for just a mixing bowl and hand whisk and you’ll have it in the oven in less than 10 minutes. I add chunks of dark chocolate and a shot of espresso to my banana bread as it adds a great depth of flavour and slight bittersweet finish, but feel free to omit these (if you’re weird and don’t like my two favourite things).

Ingredients

  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 100ml dairy free yoghurt (I used Alpro plain)
  • 100ml nut milk (I used almond)
  • 3 very ripe bananas (roughly mashed) plus 1 extra banana (halved down the middle)
  • 2tbsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 2tbsp boiling water
  • 75g light brown soft sugar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking power
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 150g 70% dark chocolate

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a large loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place the oil, yoghurt, milk, mashed banana, both sugars and coffee in a bowl and whisk together. Now add in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and whisk again until you have a smooth batter. Roughly chop 100g of the dark chocolate and stir that in, reserving the rest. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and arrange the banana halves on top.
  3. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until well risen, springy and golden. Once baked, leave to cool in the tin, then melt the remaining dark chocolate and drizzle over the top.

Enjoy!

Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate & Almond Butter Cookies (Vegan)

Biscuits

In the spirit of Veganuary, I thought I’d keep my recipes plant based this month. I’m not vegan myself, but am completely on board with reducing my consumption of animal products, so should probably reflect this in my baking. This week I tackled a home baking classic: the chocolate chip cookie. I’m pretty smug about the result; you would never guess they contained neither eggs nor dairy as the texture is buttery and chewy and the flavour rich, nutty and indulgent. Definitely give them a try, I’ve had great feedback from my (very willing) testers!

Ingredients

  • 150g coconut oil
  • 150g smooth almond butter
  • 75ml almond milk
  • 175g light brown soft sugar
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g rye flour
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 300g 70% dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 75g almonds, roughly chopped
  • Sea salt

Method

  1. Place the coconut oil, almond butter, almond milk, both sugars and vanilla in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (ensuring that the water does not touch the base of the bowl). Heat, stirring occasionally, until all the ingredients have melted to form a smooth mixture. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the rye flour, plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add in the wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until a soft dough has formed. Now evenly distribute 3/4 of the chocolate chunks and all the almonds through the dough. Chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 170c. Line 2 or 3 large baking trays with greaseproof paper. Using an ice cream scoop shape even balls of dough and arrange on the trays, allowing space for spreading ( I put up to 6 cookies on each tray). Take a couple of your reserved chocolate chunks and press into the top of each ball of dough, then sprinkle with some sea salt.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, then carefully take the trays out and bang them sharply on a worktop. Pop them back in the oven for 3 minutes then repeat the bang technique before returning them to the oven for the final 3 minutes of baking. Once their time is up, bang once more and leave to cool. This technique is favoured by lots of bakers as it stops the cookies from puffing up too much and creates that wrinkly finish (you’ll probably need to bake the cookies in batches as this recipe will make 20-24).
  5. Leave the cookies to cool on the trays for at least half an hour before serving (unless you want a particularly warm and gooey cookie!).

Enjoy!

Chocolate Tahini Tiffin with Orange and Fig (Vegan)

Chocolate, Uncategorized

It’s January. It’s bloody freezing. I’ve hit a new level of pale, the Christmas tree has gone to festive heaven and everyone appears to be chasing a dry January (with varying levels of success) or hitting the gym. With these bleak facts in mind, I’m not going to share a protein-5cal-superfood recipe (that would be off brand anyway); instead, here’s a delicious way to use up any old dried fruit and nuts you have lying around after Christmas. It’s not an energy ball but it’s not the worst thing you could be eating. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 200g 70% dark chocolate
  • 50g coconut oil
  • 100g tahini
  • 1tbsp maple syrup
  • generous pinch sea salt
  • zest 1 orange
  • 150g mixed nuts (I used pistachios, almonds and pecans), roughly chopped
  • 120g dried figs, roughly chopped (I love figs with orange and tahini, but you could use any dried fruit)
  • 2tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Method

  1. Place the chocolate, coconut oil, tahini, maple syrup, seas salt and orange zest in a large heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (ensuring that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and melt gently, stirring occasionally.
  2. Once the contents of the bowl have melted, mix briefly to form a smooth, glossy liquid. Set aside to cool a little.
  3. Once the chocolate mix has cooled, stir through the mixed nuts, dried figs and most of the sesame seeds. Tip into a lined tin/mould (mine was roughly 20x12cm) and level out with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle over the remaining sesame seeds, then leave in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours.
  4. Once set, slice up and serve (keep refrigerated).

Sticky Date Pudding with Masala Chai Inspired Toffee Sauce

Cakes, Uncategorized

This striking but deeply comforting dessert is perfect for Christmas if you’re after something a little bit different to your bog standard figgy pudding; it’s essentially a twist on the nostalgic sticky toffee pud, but is lifted with ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and orange then drenched in a sauce which I’ve infused with classic chai spices (black peppercorn, cardamom, cinnamon, anise, cloves and fennel seeds). I’m going to be serving this up on Christmas day with vanilla ice cream (though it would be amazing with a rose or pistachio variety!).

Ingredients

  • 225g butter
  • 225g soft dark brown sugar
  • 70g black treacle
  • 135g golden syrup
  • 200g pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 200ml boiling water
  • 100ml milk
  • 350g plain flour
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • zest 1 orange
  • 2 eggs

For the sauce

  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 75g butter
  • 50ml maple syrup
  • 125ml double cream
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2tsp mixed spice
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • pinch fennel seeds
  • 4 green cardamom pods, cracked
  • pinch sea salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease your bundt tin generously with butter then coat with plain flour, tipping out any excess.
  2. Before starting on the pudding mix, infuse the cream for the toffee sauce. To do this pour the cream into a small saucepan and add the cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, mixed spice, peppercorns, fennel seeds and cardamom pods. Heat gently until just boiling then set aside until required.
  3. Place the dates in a small bowl then pour over the boiling water. While the dates are soaking, melt the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup in a large saucepan. Once the contents of the pan have melted add the milk, orange zest, soaked dates and water. Stir together until well combined. Set aside to cool a little.
  4. Sift the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and break in the eggs. Briefly mix the eggs to break them up then gradually add the contents of the saucepan. Stir together with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth, lump-free batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin (ensuring that you leave a 1.5 inch gap at the top of the tin for rising) and bake for 40-50 minutes (or until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs attached when inserted).
  6. While the pudding is cooking, finish the sauce. To do this simply place the sugar, butter and maple in a small saucepan and melt together until gently bubbling, then remove from the heat and strain in the flavoured cream and salt.
  7. Serve the pudding warm with a generous helping of sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Merry Christmas!