This quintessential British pud is given the technical twist with the addition of tuiles, so that it is not only sweet, delicious and comforting, but also beautiful to serve. Take your time with the caramel –and remember to swirl the pan as the syrup forms, rather than stirring. This helps to ensure that the sugar dissolves evenly without any unwanted crystallisation.
For the tuiles, place the butter in a pan with the lemon juice and liquid glucose and cook over a low heat until the butter has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and sift in the flour and icing sugar. Add the hazelnuts and sesame seeds and stir until combined. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4. Spread the tuile mixture out thinly over the silicone mat on the baking sheet to form a rectangle, roughly 30 x 20cm. Bake for 12 minutes, until the tuile is dark golden and spread almost to the size of the mat. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 3 minutes. While the tuile sheet is still pliable, slide it off the mat onto a chopping board and cut into 8 tall rectangles measuring 6cm wide by 15cm tall.
For the toffee sauce, tip the caster sugar into a small saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of water. Set the pan over a low heat to dissolve the sugar – don’t stir, but gently swirl the pan from time to time. When the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to medium and bring the syrup to the boil. Continue to cook until the syrup becomes a deep amber colour, swirling the pan to ensure that the caramel cooks evenly.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully (as it will spit and splutter) add the cream and butter and stir gently to combine. Return the pan to a low heat to re-melt any hardened caramel. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the caramel to cool to room temperature while you make the puddings.
For the puddings, tip the dates into a heatproof bowl and pour over the boiling water. Add the bicarbonate of soda, then leave the dates to soften and cool for 15 minutes. Transfer the dates and their soaking water to the bowl of a small processor and blitz them to a smooth purée.
Cream the butter and both sugars together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a beater attachment, on medium–high speed, for 3–5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined. Add the flour and mix for about 1 minute on low speed until combined, then add the puréed dates and fold them through the mixture, using a spoon or spatula, until no streaks remain and taking care not to over-mix.
Spoon 1 tablespoon of the toffee sauce into the base of each of the prepared pudding moulds, then pour the cake batter equally over the toffee sauce in the moulds. Leave the remainder of the toffee sauce in the bowl for later. Bake the puddings for 20–25 minutes, until the top of each pudding is springy to the touch.
Meanwhile, make the crème Anglaise. Heat the milk, cream and vanilla seeds in a pan over a medium heat to just below boiling point (don’t throw away the vanilla pod –rinse it and pop it into a jar of caster sugar to flavour the sugar for other bakes). In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar together until pale and fluffy. Pour over the warmed milk, whisking continuously. Pour the mixture into a heavy-based saucepan and cook it over a very low heat for 3–4 minutes, stirring continuously, until smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and set aside.
To serve the puddings, reheat the sauce over a low heat. Then, turn the baked puddings out of the moulds, each onto an individual serving plate. Balance the tuiles either side of each pudding and serve with a jug of toffee sauce and a jug of crème Anglaise for pouring over as you wish.