Creamy date pudding with caramel sauce
Yields: 6 servings
With a few ingredients and a few minutes of active preparation, here’s a dessert that transitions from fall into winter beautifully. This creamy dream of a dessert made from fresh seasonal dates pureed into a simple batter flavored with spice, vanilla and lemon and then accompanied by a date syrup-based caramel sauce, evokes for me the perfect ending to a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast. Boil water, puree dates, assemble and combine the remaining ingredients and they are ready to go into the oven. They may be baked either in individual porcelain ramekins or in a muffin pan, as you wish. Butter the containers well before pouring in the mixture and then bake in a water bath with enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the molds.
Here are the particulars.
For the pudding:
2/3 c. boiling water
1 c. fresh dates, pitted (nice and moist);
Note: Supermarket dates work well here if other varieties are unavailable; most likely they will be Deglet Noor variety and somewhat drier than the fresh, in-season kind; if you are using them, allow for a bit more time to soak in the hot water before pureeing and then combining into the other ingredients)
1/2 t. baking soda
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
2/3 c. all purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/8 t. salt
3 T. melted butter
1 t. real vanilla extract
4 T. brown sugar
1 large whole egg
Optional addition: 1/2 c. roughly chopped walnuts, lightly toasted until fragrant
Optional garnishes: Pomegranate seeds or slices of peeled ripe persimmon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the insides of 6 one cup capacity molds or 6 muffin cups and set aside.
Boil water, add dates and baking soda and set aside until the dates are softened. Then puree the dates and their liquid in a blender. Stir in lemon zest. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Sift dry ingredients together and add to the date mixture and mix just until combined. Add butter, vanilla, sugar and egg and mix to blend. Pour the mixture into the prepared molds and place into a water bath with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the molds. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a skewer or toothpick placed into the center of the pudding comes out almost dry. When done, a bit of the mixture should cling to the skewer or toothpick. Allow to cool, unmold carefully and then either serve within an hour or so, or refrigerate, covered until ready to serve. (The puddings can be made a day in advance, if desired. If you are making them in advance, warm in a 300 degree F. oven). Serve with the following sauce.
For the caramel sauce:
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. date syrup (available at Middle Eastern stores or from www.ilovedatelady.com
Salt, to taste
In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, without stirring, cook the sugar to melt, and then brown to a golden, amber color. Heat the cream in a second saucepan just until hot and then stir it in to the caramel The mixture will bubble up and sputter for a few minutes so stir carefully. When the cream is well blended into the mixture, add the date syrup and over high heat, bring the mixture just to the boil. Stir as needed to blend well. Use immediately or cool to room temperature and then refrigerate in a container with a tight fitting lid. Warm the sauce over a water bath to re-liquefy just before serving the pudding.