STICKY TOFFEE APPLE PUDDING

It’s Fall and what do you do on a gorgeous Fall day in New England?  Go apple picking, of course!  We were in New Hampshire and stumbled onto this remote, little apple orchard located down a very long, dirt road, nestled  among tall, lumbering pine trees.  No fancy signs with balloons announcing their location.  No giant painted pumpkins, mind-numbing corn mazes or antique tractor displays … just apple trees.  Apprehensively, we approached the little shed with the owner standing outside.  “C’mon in”, he said “wanna pick some apples?”  How could we not.

He explained the different varieties of apple trees and their location in the orchard, handed us a couple of paper bags and off we went.  Picking didn’t take long, as the trees were heavy with fruit … Empire, Macouns, Macintosh, Golden Delicious and Cortland … all red, ripe and ready.  After picking … and eating as many as we could … we managed to find our way back to the shed, where the owner weighed our bounty and offered us a slice of pie.  Pie?  Yes, every day his wife bakes an apple pie for anyone who, after a day of picking, would like to sit, relax and enjoy a slice of homemade apple pie.  Needless to say, it was one of the best apple pies we’ve ever had.

Now, with more apples than we could possibly eat, it was time to get baking!  So what to  make?  I certainly couldn’t compete with the apple pie we had at the orchard.  I’ve made many strudels, cobblers and apple cakes.  I wanted to make something different.  How about an old fashioned steamed pudding?

My inspiration was the classic British dessert, Sticky Toffee Pudding.  Putting on my creative baker hat once again, I came up with this Apple version.  If you are a lover of classic steamed puddings, which, unlike cakes, are dense, moist and homey, then you must give this a try.  Yes, it is a bit time consuming, but its the perfect thing to make on a chilly, Autumn afternoon.

This will feed anywhere from 6 hungry people to 12 easily.  Serve it warm with a generous slug of the thick, sweet toffee topping.  To heck with the calories … you burned them all off apple picking anyway!

STICKY TOFFEE APPLE PUDDING
Bake 350° for 60 to 70 minutes.  Serves 6 to 10, depending upon portion size.

Toffee Sauce
1 15 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Pudding/Cake/Batter
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
4-5 large apples, peeled, cored and cubed (approximately 6 cups)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)

1 stick butter, melted
4 eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Into a high-sided saucepan, place the entire can of sweetened condensed milk.  Completely cover the can with water and bring to a boil.  Then cover the saucepan and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Let this simmer, covered, for at least two hours, while you make and bake the pudding.  Check it every now and then to ensure the can is completely covered with simmering water.  Refill water as needed.

Preheat the oven to 350° and butter six to eight ramekins.  In a large baking or roasting pan, lay a kitchen towel.  The ramekins are going to bake in a water bath and the towel keeps the dishes from bumping into each other.

In a large frypan, over medium heat, melt the butter and add the cubed apples.  Sprinkle on the dark brown sugar, the cinnamon, nutmeg and the cornstarch.  Mix gently.  Cover and let it cook down for about 15 minutes or until the apples are softened and a sauce forms.  If needed, add a bit of water.  Stir gently.

While the apples are gently cooking, in a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and brown sugar.  Add the melted butter and vanilla.  Beat in the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking powder.  Mix well, but don’t overbeat.

Spoon the apple filling into the pudding batter.  With a wooden spoon, gently mix all together.  Then spoon the batter into the buttered ramekins.  Not too high.  They will rise a bit.  Sprinkle with toasted nuts, if you’d like.

Place the ramekins on the towel-lined baking pan.  Then fill the baking pan with hot water until the water comes halfway up the sides of the dishes.

Cover the entire baking pan tightly with foil and bake at 350°.  Bake for 60 to 70 minutes (depending upon the size of the ramekins).  No peeking.  Puddings take a bit longer to bake than cakes.

When done, remove the baking pan from the oven and let the puddings rest for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, take the can which has been bubbling away on the stove top, and holding it with a towel, carefully open it.  It will be very hot.  With a spoon, mix the thick, sweet sauce to smooth it out.  Then spoon the toffee sauce into a serving bowl or pitcher.

To serve, either pop the pudding out of the ramekin and plate it or serve it right in the ramekin … and spoon a generous dollop of toffee sauce on top.  For a little extra treat, you might want to have ice cream or whipped cream on hand.  This is an absolutely rib-sticking, old fashioned dessert, hearty, sweet and full of chunky apples with a creamy toffee sauce … perfect for a cool Fall evening.  i hope you and your family enjoy it as much as we did!!

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