So, every year now, one of the main facets for celebrating my Sister’s birthday includes a dinner at our house with the menu of her choosing. Meat usually involves Crab, or a “Parent’s Special” like Lasagna or Fleishgnadle (see my next post); I’m usually tasked for the simple vegetable side. And every single time since I decided to make it 4 years ago, she has expected me to make Gelato. Most of the time, this is the simple Peanut Butter which I made originally (and, to my chagrin, decided to freeze with hard-to-get dry ice), with each year having to add yet another new component to it. This year, however, she decided to cut the Peanut Butter entirely for something inspired by our recent England Trip, of which she had found many new Obsessions. In particular, she wanted me to make “Sticky Toffee Pudding Gelato.”
Luckily, she let me decide how exactly I worked gelato into something resembling this stark contrast, and of course had no problems if I wanted to cook other things to go with it… she’s such a good sister like that. So, I set the thought in the back of my mind, thinking of it every now and then as the months led up to March.
Quite often, my many conceptions brought me to think about Potter’s Pasties desserts, as well as the roll of Food Truck Desserts in general. Most of the time in Minnesota, these items fit into a very specific strata of styles: Rice Krispies, Cookies, Cupcakes, Cookie-Ice Cream Sandwich, Mini-Donuts, etc. These are the handheld items, the make-ahead and wrap in 5 inches of plastic, the generic items… but at the same time these are the items that, when done right, tug at our nostalgic heartstrings, bring us joy in their simplicity. Like when one goes to a really special, “higher end” bakery (Angel Food in Minneapolis comes to mind) and get a double-chocolate sea salt cookie that’s made just right.
We rarely see any of the more “composed” dessert styles out of these trucks, outside of maybe a Crepe stand. And why would we? So many of these trucks spend so much time and focus showcasing foods that are unique, different, representative of who they are; and when it comes to those people, “composed plate desserts” are rarely who they are. Not to mention all the stove and oven space being used for cooking the savory items, adding a dessert that’s not pre-made, or needs only half a minute to do, can be suicide. Especially if you don’t NEED to do it.
Right now, the only trucks I’ve seen here really try and attempt this are Potter’s and Chef Shack; and even they don’t count. Chef Shack simply turns nostalgic pies, cookies, etc into a crush bowl of goodness, and I still haven’t heard of too much success on Potter’s Banoffee and Sticky Pudding (which are still pre-made, just topped to order).
I’d love the chance to see a truck that finds a way to make a dessert that’s just… different, going a little more on the composing side yet it really feel like it came out of a true Food Truck. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Fran have a whole plethora of them; I think it’s about time we in the Twin Cities kick up our own movement of special Dessert Trucks to really match.
Well, back to my original thought, Sticky Toffee Pudding Gelato…
I originally thought I’d convert a Burnt Caramel Gelato recipe I had and just do it with Toffee, but I found another idea I liked better. For those who don’t know, one of the main things that makes Sticky Toffee Pudding unique is the use of Dates in the dough. I myself LOVE dates (fighting urge to make really bad pun joke…. fiigghtttiiiiinngggg…..), so I figured I’d use them as my base. Then I found a really good recipe for a Date-Rum Ice Cream, see here:
Now, before you say anything about the “this is Ice Cream, not Gelato” thing, I’ll just stop you right there. From my experience, the official qualifications of what makes “Gelato” are constantly changing depending on who’s saying it. Some say it’s ingredients, some say serving temp, not using eggs, or any other reasons, separate or together. I myself used egg yolks and milk in my hand-done recipes quite often. So I’ve just decided it’s a matter of opinion and left it at that.
Next, the Sticky Toffee. If I’m going to do this dessert right, I have to make the actual pudding to serve with the ice cream. The problem I’ve found, though, with this and so many other Internationally-Famous recipes, is how difficult it can be to find one that’s actually made, and tastes, authentic. Luckily I found this one that talks about, and uses, that oh-so-ubiquitous English Sweet, “Golden Syrup.” This be the recipe I used (well, mainly… love making my own little tweaks):
The toffee alone in this recipe is sooo good; great caramel substitute. And the writer understands that sometimes substitutions need to be made (though, I was luckily able to find my Golden Syrup at a local Byerlies).
After making, and leaving in the fridge overnight to cool and COMPRESS, I chopped some of it up and mixed it into the Gelato at the end of its Churning Period. Now comes the part where I make this “special.”
The one thing I immediately wanted to do is bread a couple sides of the Pudding slices and fry nice n crispy in a pan. While I was shopping, I happened to see this box of the old cake donuts (you know, the ones with all those ridges). So I bought it, broke a few pieces up and let it sit overnight to stale (Don’t make fine breadcrumbs out of fresh ingredients, they’re too moist and soft to get that texture you want. There are always special situations, of course, but that’s another post), and ground the next day.
Chopped my pudding into 6 large blocks, then dredged completely in my special Donut Crumb mixture. The great thing is, this can be done ahead of time and left in the fridge for most of the day, so no worrying about time constraints.
All that was left was heating a pan, adding butter and frying the Puddings. If doing at home, two things one needs to take into consideration: Low-Medium heat or Thinner Slices; it was hard to heat these fellas through. Secondly, flip often after the first side, the rest will sear a decent amount faster. But it gets this nice, hard, crispy crust (aided by the toffee which leaked out and caramelized with the crumbs).
As for serving, I ended up making a caramelized apple-date-banana compote with rum for the bottom, soaked some fresh diced apples in a limoncello-syrup I still had in the fridge, and of course got more of that Toffee on the plate. You’ll notice I didn’t take any pics with the actual Gelato… let’s just say I made some modifications to it that didn’t work all that well in the Ice Cream Machine. We were still able to eat it, and it was very good, just not “camera-ready.”
Now, in looping back to my earlier comments, am I saying I think this is a dish that would work in a Food Truck? Heck no, I made this for home and that’s where it stays. But the Pudding by itself, fried in a pan… something about it just gives me that feeling of potential, that feeling that if worked right, it could fit somewhere on its own. It’s that special little twist on a nostalgic base, that if worked right could fit in among the greats. Maybe cut into smaller cubes and served in a bag, or put on a stick, covered in batter, and deep-fried… that’d be a fun thing to try.
Either way, we all ended up happy and full that night, just like the many years before.
What’s your most memorable dessert? What kinds pull at your heartstrings?