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Will the real, authentic Sticky Toffee Pudding please stand up?

I've just come back from Christmas week in London and I have lovely memories of a fantastic new year's eve dinner at the venerable Rule's on Maiden Lane, and especially of their deliciously dense and rich "Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce," which was served with custard sauce genrously ladled over it all. It was heaven.

But now I want to make it myself, and the different varieties of recipes for it that I am finding online (including in Chowhound threads) are more confusing than elucudating.

Is the real, authentic sticky pudding baked, steamed, or baked in a bain marie?

Does the batter contain white sugar or demerara sugar?

Does the batter contain treacle or golden syrup, or not?

Does the sauce contain treacle or golden syrup, or not?

Is the sauce made with white sugar caramelized or brown sugar?

Is the sauce poured on the pudding and broiled until bubbly before serving, or just poured on the pudding?

Is the pudding served with custard sauce ladled over it, or with cream?

Is it Scottish in origin, or English?

Can I even make a reasonable facsimile in the U.S. using American ingredients? Cook's Illustrated came up with a recipe using American ingredients such a molasses; is the recipe any good?

All these issues raised by the different recipes make me want just to make Nigella Lawson's simple, pudding-cake version of it, which I have tried and find to be very delicious. However, the baker in me wants to be able to make the Real Thing.

At the risk of starting a war among stalwarts, please let me know what you think.

Thank you for your help!

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  1. I'm no expert but I've always wanted to make this. I'd always assumed I would make Delia Smith's as she seems quintessentially English, but her recipe seems to contain none of the goodies you mention. Maybe it's a different one from what I remember, but here's what my quick search kicked out:

    http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/li...

    2 Replies
    1. re: averill

      Yes, I saw this in my research. The coffee essence in the batter and pecan pieces are heterodox. I have seen coffee in a very few recipes, but never until Delia have I seen pecan in Sticky Toffee Pudding. Take out the coffee and pecan, and it's one of the simpler, baked recipes with fewer ingredients.

      Given that there are many more complex recipes for Sticky Toffee Pudding, when I see simple recipes like this using no ingredients not easily found in the U.S., I always wonder whether the Brit author has Americanized the ingredients and simplified the method for wider appeal.

      1. re: averill

        Don't trust the Delia!

        And please don't base your opinion of English food on her recipes.

      2. I think there are as many recipes for Sticky Toffee Pudding as there are counties in the UK. I've lived here 3 years, and it's definitely one of my favorite puds (as the Brits call dessert). One good source for recipes is the BBC Good Food site
        http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/

        I haven't checked it out for Sticky Toffee but it might be worth a try. Epicurious has one that seems well adapted for doing in the States. Dates are the most important ingredient and I think they're mostly steamed - even in a microwave.

        1 Reply
        1. re: zuriga1

          >>>Dates are the most important ingredient

          This is what I've heard as well (and, sorry, OP, I know that wasn't even on your list of questions!). NYT had a recipe for this sometime in the past 5(?) years or so that might be helpful for you. They claimed it was from the folks who 'originated' the STP. I don't have it, but you could try searching their site.

          Good luck!

        2. We've made STP after having becoming very fond of them at our local British pub (The Olde Ship, British owned & operated in Fullerton.

          They make their STP on premises w/pouring cream. My husband has made STP @ home; it's close to what they make @ TOS, but not exactly the same. So I'll take a stab @ answering your questions; I'm sure there will be others who can provide a more authoratative response.
          ------------------
          Is the real, authentic sticky pudding baked, steamed, or baked in a bain marie? --We baked.

          Does the batter contain white sugar or demerara sugar?
          --We used white sugar.

          Does the batter contain treacle or golden syrup, or not?
          --Neither in ours.

          Does the sauce contain treacle or golden syrup, or not?
          --Neither in ours.

          Is the sauce made with white sugar caramelized or brown sugar?
          --We used brown sugar.

          Is the sauce poured on the pudding and broiled until bubbly before serving, or just poured on the pudding?
          --We just poured on the pudding.

          Is the pudding served with custard sauce ladled over it, or with cream?
          --We like ours with cream.

          Again, that's how we made it; it may or may not be authentic.

          1. LOL whenever I see it called STP! In the US, STP is a brand name for fuel additives and oil additives, often advertised as used in NASCAR auto racing. Do Brits actually call the pudding "STP," or is this just an abbreviation used here to avoid typing it all out, which does get a bit tedious?

            1 Reply
            1. re: browniebaker

              I'm married to a British husband and neither of us think anyone here calls it STP for short. Of course, we also have something called Spotted Dick but I never tried that! Since I'm an American, the shortcuts are fine with me.. and a lot easier. :-)

            2. I'm out here in Southern California, so I'm familiar w/STP...I was just too lazy to type out the whole thing!