Hosting an Ottolenghi Club gathering in our own home is an opportunity to make something that doesn't travel well, and this was at the forefront of my mind as I browsed Sweet. The best wintery contender, I thought, was the sticky fig pudding with salted caramel and coconut topping - it could travel straight from the oven to the table, still warm!
The prologue to the recipe mentions that it takes inspiration from the sticky date puddings that are so common on Australian and Kiwi menus. My experience of those puddings is that the dates blend completely into the caramelly pudding, while here chopped apples and dried figs offer some gentle, fruity variation in the cakes. Their preparation is no more arduous than for a standard cake - beat together butter and sugar, then an egg, followed by the dry ingredients. I prepped the fruit earlier in the day, then readied the cakes in the hour before our guests arrived, spooning the batter into a paper-lined muffin tray and popping them into the oven as we sat down to eat the main meal.
Muffin trays are the 'inelegant' alternative to the recipe's preferred serving method, something to do with bottomless rings and tulip papers that I'd never even heard of. I wasn't too bothered, and nor were my guests, as they watched me melt together the coconut caramel and bake it onto the cakes after dinner. It was a little messy, but in the best possible way, with the cakes soaking up some of the syrup and any spills setting into a chewier caramel around the edges. The coconut was also toasty and chewy and really the star of the dish, even if it wasn't as pretty as a tulip.
I served one little pudding to each guest, with the choice of cream or icecream on the side. We all had the good fortune of another leftover pudding each to enjoy the next day, and they were still quite lovely at room temperature.
Sticky fig pudding with salted caramel & coconut topping
(from Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh's Sweet)
2 medium Granny Smith apples
200g soft dried figs
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
125g butter, at room temperature
200g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
caramel coconut topping
95g brown sugar
60mL double cream
95g coconut flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
Peel and core the apple, and chop the fruit into 1cm pieces. Remove the tough stalks from the figs and roughly chop the fruit. In a small saucepan, stir together the apple pieces, fig piece, bicarb soda and water. Bring it all to the boil, then simmer it over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir it occasionally, making sure all the fruit spends some time immersed. When you turn off the heat, the figs should be starting to collapse. Set the saucepan aside to cool to room temperature.
Preheat an oven to 200°C. Line a muffin pan with paper cups (I used 10).
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a second larger bowl, beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well incorporated. Gradually beat in the flour mixture and the cooled fig-apple mixture until everything is well combined. Spoon the cake batter into the muffin cups, until they're about three-quarters full. Bake the cakes for about 25 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
During the last 5 minutes of the cakes baking, place all of the topping ingredients in a small-medium saucepan and set them over low-medium heat. Stir them often, until everything is melted and well combined. When the cakes are baked, carefully spoon the topping over each one, and bake them for a further 12 minutes.
Allow the puddings to cool on a bench for 10 minutes before serving, with a dollop of cream or a small scoop of vanilla icecream.