​Sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel

In the dead of winter, nothing beats a good sticky toffee pudding at the end of a meal.
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This pudding will warm you up from the inside out and is perfect enjoyed with a glass of PX sherry or port. 
Serves 8–10

* 65g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
* 200g pitted dried dates, roughly chopped
* 250ml water
* 100g soft light brown sugar
* 100g caster sugar
* 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
* 200g plain flour
* 1½ teaspoons baking powder
* ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
* vanilla or salted caramel ice cream, to serve
For the salted caramel:
* 250ml double cream
* 1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt
* 110g liquid glucose
* 150g caster sugar
* 75g unsalted butter, diced

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas Mark 4. Grease a 900g loaf tin and line with baking parchment.
2. Put the chopped dates and water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly, then pour the mixture into a small food processor and blend until nicely puréed. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool completely.
3. Meanwhile, cream the butter with the brown and caster sugars in a large mixing bowl using an electric whisk. When the mixture is light and fluffy, gradually beat in the eggs.

4. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl and fold through. Finally, add the date purée and fold into the mixture until just incorporated (try not to over-mix the batter).
5. Pour the mixture into the greased and lined tin and bake for 30–40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

6. Cool for a few minutes, then turn out the loaf on to a wire rack. Leave to cool a bit more while you make the salted caramel sauce.
7. To make the caramel, put the cream and salt into a heavy-based saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Meanwhile, put the liquid glucose into another heavy-based saucepan with 50g of the sugar.

8. Set over medium heat and let the sugar melt slowly. Once it has, add half of the remaining sugar and let it melt slowly over medium heat. Repeat with the last of the sugar. Once all the sugar has melted, increase the heat and let the syrup cook to an amber-coloured caramel.
9. Take the pan off the heat and slowly stir in the hot cream. If there are any bits of hardened caramel, stir the mixture over medium heat until they have melted.

10. Finally, stir in the butter and take the pan off the heat. (If making in advance, gently reheat the caramel before serving.)
11. To serve, cut the warm sticky toffee pudding into slices and place one on each serving plate. Pour the salted caramel generously over the puddings and serve immediately, with ice cream on the side, if you wish.

More from Social Sweet: Extract taken from Social Sweets, published by Absolute, £25.00, Hardback. Photography © John Carey. For further recipes visit www.cooked.co.uk 

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