Advent Calendar, Day 10


Christmas crackers!
My parents introduced me to crackers years ago, after picking up a box on a trip to England. I found these in a store near my office this week. They’ll make nice treats wrapped up with the gifts I’m giving this year, don’t you think?

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recipe after the jump

Sticky Toffee Pudding by Pastry Chef Jennifer Giblin of Blue Smoke—New York, NY
Adapted by

Whenever I eat at Blue Smoke, I always save room for this dessert — no small feat, as anyone who’s eaten there can tell you. It must be good if I’ll give up an extra rib or portion of brisket for it. I haven’t tried making it myself yet, but it’ll happen this Christmas, for sure.

8 ounces dates
1 cup stout beer
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 ounces butter
8 ounces sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs, whisked
8 ounces flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

8 ounces butter
8 ounces dark brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped
4 ounces heavy cream
Pinch of salt
Dash of lemon juice

1 pound crème fraîche
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Toasted pecans, to garnish

For the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch-baking pan and line with parchment paper. Blend the dates in a food processor until they come together in a ball and set aside in a bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the beer. Just before it boils add the baking soda and whisk well. Add beer mixture to the dates and smooth together. Set aside to cool. Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract in a mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs to the butter mixture in four parts. Make sure to scrape down the sides after each addition of egg. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the batter and beat until incorporated, then add one half of the date mixture and mix to incorporate. Repeat with another third of flour and date mixture ending with the last third of flour. Spread mixture evenly in the baking pan and bake for 15 minutes before rotating. Continue baking for another 5 minutes or until done.

For the Toffee Sauce:
Place butter, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan and cook over medium heat. Stir and continue cooking until mixture is smooth and just begins to boil. Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream, salt, and lemon juice.

For the Crème Fraiche:
Put the crème fraîche, sugar and vanilla extract into a mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whip until fairly stiff but be careful not to over-whip. Scoop the crème fraîche into a piping bag fitted with a medium-sized round nozzle for plating.

To Assemble:
Cut cake into squares and cover each portion with toffee sauce. Place one piece of cake on each plate. Heat for 40 seconds in the microwave and top each piece with toasted pecans and whipped crème fraîche.

Yield: 8 Servings

3 Replies to “Advent Calendar, Day 10”

  1. when I was growing up in England, party crackers were part of every kid’s birthday celebration – there was always a cracker on every plate, ensuring that every kid went home with some little gift, and pulling crackers with each other was always a big part of the party – we loved them –
    crackers weren’t specifically for Christmas but for all-year-round –
    same as the Nutcracker wasn’t performed as a Christmas spectacular, but was included in ballet companies’ programs at any time of year –
    of course for Christmas we always had pantomime, with the Dame being played by a man, and Principal Boy always being played by a woman – sort of like a gay revue, long before we knew what gay revues were!

  2. Thanks for the mini history lesson, Miriam! My English friends definitely feel some nostalgia for crackers, but admit how hokey they are at the same time, just like the article I linked to mentioned. Is that your experience as well?

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