There are plenty of reasons to welcome autumn – the beauty of the sunrise, the smouldering scent of the air, the colours of the trees and so on – but the truth is that most of us are just glad that the season gives us licence eat cake with impunity again. After the abstemious salad days of summer, sinking a spoon into something soft, sweet and disturbingly calorific is a a richly pleasure.
But just because something’s indulgent, doesn’t mean it can’t also be refined. Take Lucknam Park in Wiltshire – the country house hotel is as decadent and spoiling as they come, but it knows how to pull it off with elegance. This dessert recipe from the hotel cookery school captures that talent perfectly – all the home-cooked, caramel-dribbling hedonism of a proper pub-style sticky toffee monster, executed with fine-dining flair…
For the pudding:
225g stoned dates
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
85g unsalted butter
170g caster sugar
170g self raising flour
5g mixed spice
5g ground cinnamon
20g natural yoghurt
For the sauce:
100g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter
150ml double cream
Pinch of sea salt
For the ice cream:
250ml full fat milk
250ml double cream
180g caster sugar
6 large egg yolks
125ml banana coulis
For the pudding: bring the water to the boil, add the dates and bicarbonate of soda and bring back to a boil.
Take off the heat and leave for two hours to break the dates down till they soften – you can blend them in a food processor if you wish.
Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together till light and creamy.
Add the eggs one at a time on a low speed, then add the flour and spices followed by the date mix.
Pour the mix into a lined or greased baking tin and cook in a pre-heated oven at 180˚C (160ºC fan/ gas mark 4) for about 35 minutes or till a cocktail stick goes through with only a little mix sticking to it.
For the caramel sauce: using a thick bottomed pan, slowly caramelise the sugar till it is a deep golden colour but not burnt.
Add the butter a bit at a time so that it emulsifies with the caramel.
Add the cream and bring quickly to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the salt and leave to cool slightly before serving.
For the banana ice cream: in a heavy bottom pan, bring the milk and cream to boil. Whisk in the caster sugar and egg yolks.
Pour half of the hot milk and cream mixture on the top of the egg yolks and whisk well. Add back to the pot and start cooking the ice-cream base with the help of a wooden spoon.
Cook the ice-cream base until it coats the back of the spoon or reaches 85º C. Remove from the heat, add the banana coulis, mix well and pass through a fine mesh strainer. Put the base on an ice water bath for chilling. When chilled, churn in an ice-cream machine and store in the freezer.