Autumn! And a Persimmon Creme Brulee.

Of dry leaf piles, of cracklings underfoot, of receding daylight, of longer nights, of cooler winds, of Fall, of harvest, of mellowness, of Shelly, of Keats, of red, of gold, of maple, of figs, of chestnuts, of pumkins, of sparseness, of loss, of change, of seasons, of bright endings to make for new beginnings.

Does that remind you…Of Autumn?

 
 
 

I almost thought I could write poetry when I recently connected with Mother Nature. In fact, the more I explore in and around Sydney, the deeper I fall in love with the place. I often think if its time I should have a travel blog to record my experiences. But then everything I see inspires me to create with food…somehow its all related. Isn’t it? Beauty inspires art and art inspires beauty!

Our visit to Mount Wilson and Mount Irvine during the Easter weekend was one which I will always remember. The 3 hour drive from Sydney was so scenic with rapidly changing landscapes and beautiful views that at one point I wondered if we would be able to make it to our destination, for the number of times we pulled over to take pictures. The trees were a riot of colors, a spectrum of shades. Crimson,fiery reds,browns, yellows, gold. And the ground was covered with the fallen leaves as if setting the road ablaze. Occasionally a puffing wind came by and made them dance around and fall back to the ground.

We stopped at the Cathedral of Ferns, a large picnic spot which we was crowded as expected considering the season and the long weekend. We had lunch (prepacked) on a rustic wooden table under a bright red tree. I could eat there all my life.

After an hour or so when I thought I had enough pictures to record every little detail of the journey we drove on to the next intended spot …the Kookootonga Nut farms. This my friends, I shall write about in my next post. There’s too much to share . And then when you bring back ‘PYO’ , you make something out of it which deserves a post by itself.

Persimmons were unfamiliar to me until recently. But now I can never have enough of them. I generally add them to salad or eat them by themselves but this time the temptation to add them to dessert was too all too powerful.

Mousse was the first thought that came to my mind. And then my eyes fell on my favourite little gadget sitting in one corner of the kitchen -the blowtorch. So, Creme Brule it is! I have to admit however, things didn’t go how I planned the first time around. The pureed version of the fruit resulted in a curdled custard. For a person who has made creme brulee over a hundred times, this was the first of such a disaster. I made a second batch and this time I placed small pieces of fruit in the ramekins instead of adding Persimmon puree to the custard. The second time it was great!

 
Persimmon Creme Brulee
Serves 4

13/4 cups heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 3 tsp castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
pinch of salt
1 Persimmon chopped into small cubes

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C.
Divide the chopped Persimmons between 4 ramekins/oven proof serving bowls and place them on the base of the ramekin.
Pour the cream in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over low-medium heat. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar and salt. Pour 2 tsps of the cream into the egg yolk mixture to temper the yolks and then the remaining cream, whisking gently but constantly (do not whisk too hard or it will result in a frothy texture). Add the vanilla extract and stir.
Strain the egg-cream mixture equally into the ramekins and place them on a rimmed baking tray.
Pour boiling water carefully in the tray so that it comes up to 2/3rd the level of the custard in the ramekin. Transfer the tray into the centre of the oven.
Bake till the edges of the custard are set but the centre is still jiggly. This could take anywhere between 30-45 mins depending on the bakeware. To check for doneness, insert a pair of tongs into the oven and give the ramekins a genle shake. (The custard should not brown or rise).
Once done, carefully remove the tray from the oven and take out the ramekins using a slotted spoon. Let them cool to room temparature on a wire rack and then refrigerate to cool completely. (They can be stored upto 3 days in the refrigerator)
Just before serving, sprinkle with the remaining castor sugar and caramelise the top with a blowtorch, moving it back and forth till a crust forms ( more the sugar, thicker will be the crust). Allow the sugar to cool and harden. Serve immediately.

 

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Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon, Passion Fruit and Saffron Buttercream.

I hope you all had a fun Easter weekend. Mine has been one long eventful holiday. I have only been home to catch my beauty sleep and spent the rest of the time exploring a few gorgeous places around Sydney. Before I begin to tell you all about my adventures (in the next few posts), I wanted to give you a little peek into a some Easter baking I did for a friend. What better gift than something that you make at home! What better than a box of cupcakes with pretty pastel shades of frosting!

Sometimes the most unusual things inspire me to create my desserts. The other day I saw a little girl playing at the park wearing a pretty frock with frills and ruffles in shades of yellow. I exchanged a smile with her mother who caught me staring at the outfit. Little would she have imagined that pretty dresses could sometimes turn into a major baking inspiration.

I decided to play with white-yellow shades and almost instantly the buttercream flavours were there in my head. Lemon, Passion fruit and Saffron. And vanilla is always safe on the cupcake. When I think yellow I cannot help but think of Saffron. In India where I have grown up, saffron is a part of most desserts. It adds its special flavour, smell and colour to anything it is added to. It was however the first time I added it to buttercream.

 Luckily I had a tin of Passion fruit puree at home so that one was pretty easy too. Though I would prefer fresh fruits anytime over canned ones, my cupboards are well stocked with tins and cans for situations like this one when dessert ideas strike. And that is without a doubt…often!

For the lemon flavour I used an essence instead of zest to reduce work. Soon I was standing with 3 bowls of buttercream in front of me. I carefully added a few drops of yellow food colouring to two of the bowls depending on the desired shade. The food colouring was necessary though saffron and passion fruit had tinted the buttercream slightly.

 

I bought this flowery purple box to carry the cupcakes. And I thought they looked very pretty..don’t they?

So what is your food inspiration?

Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon, Passion fruit and Saffron Buttercream
Yields 12

Vanilla Cupcakes
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
11/2 cups all purpose flour
11/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 177 degrees C and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
In the bowl of your electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk in three additions. scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 15-20 mins or just until set and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. (Do not over bake or the cupcakes will be dry). Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, frost with icing.

Lemon, Passion Fruit and Saffron Buttercream

2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp lemon essence
2 tsp passion fruit puree, strained
a pinch of saffron dissolved in 1 tsp warm milk

In an electric mixer or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Divide the frosting between 3 bowls. In the first one add the lemon essence and beat on high speed till frosting is light and fluffy. If it is too stiff, add a tsp of milk. Fill up a piping bag with the frosting and pipe swirls on 1/3 of the total number of cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles.
In the second bowl, add the strained passion fruit puree and beat till light and fluffy. Add milk or sugar depending on the consistency of the frosting. Add a few drops of yellow food colouring to achieve the desired shade of yellow.(I wanted a light yellow shade and added about 4 drops of colour). Fill up a piping bag with the frosting and pipe swirls of Passion fruit frosting on 1/3 of the cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles.
For the third bowl, strain the saffron milk into the frosting. While straining bruise the saffron with a small spoon so as to extract maximum colour and flavour. Beat the frosting on high speed till light and fluffy. Adjust food colour as desired. Fill up a piping bag with the saffron frosting and pipe swirls onto the remaining cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles.






 

Strawberry Melting Moments. Not a moment too soon!

I am so looking forward to the weekend. 4 days off…a much needed break. We have been longing for some family time. And it has been long due. First it was the boy’s health, one following the other and then my husband travelling on work. Now all we want is to slow down and huddle together in a few peaceful corners of the world and do nothing of substance.

I have a few things planned but most of it is going to be driven by how adventurous we feel every morning. If we are not too late to catch the Autumnal red gold trees , I may be able to get a few scenic pictures for you. A few guests who I love having over are also on the agenda. And plenty of food, of course. I hope to keep my pantry well stocked with sweet treats.

My little men love Melting moments. And I love watching them grab the cookies hard that crumble under the slightest pressure. It melts my heart to see them despair over the broken cookies. These are a joy to make too. They are egg less and ready in minutes. With or without frosting they always taste great!

 

The Easter bunnies are on their way, their baskets loaded with treasure. I am basking in the excitement of letting them uncover.

Bounty is in the air! Not a moment too soon.

 Strawberry Melting Moments (adapted with variation from Taste.com)

Yields 10

125g unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup pure icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup flour
2 tbsp custard powder
icing sugar to serve

For filling
60g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp strawberry essence
3/4 cup pure icing sugar, sifted
2 drops pink food colouring

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Using a electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Sift flour and custard powder over butter mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined and a soft dough forms.
Using 1 heaped tbsp of dough per ball, make balls. Place on prepared trays leaving room for spreading. Using a fork dipped in flour, lightly flatten each biscuit until 1 cm thick.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden. Cool on tray for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile make strawberry filling: Using a whisk, beat butter in a bowl till light and creamy. Add strawberry essence. Whisk to combine. Add icing sugar. Whisk until well combined. Tint the frosting with food colour.
Spread or pipe the filling on the flat side of a cookie. Sandwich with another cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. Serve dusted with icing sugar.

‘Sunkiss’-ed! Pineapple Orange cupcakes with Cointreau buttercream.

Sunkissed…nope, this time its not me! Those are my cocktail inspired cupcakes. Okay, this is my 3rd cupcake in 3 weeks. But believe me when i say these are different. These are boozy and grown up cupcakes with a generous dose of Cointreau. I know I know…looks can be deceptive!

I love liqours. I think I love them more in desserts than in cocktails. My little collection of bottles have all been procured at some time with a sweet treat in mind. Cointreau without a doubt is my favourite.

I have been meaning to make use of pineapple too in a big sort of way. That is out of guilt for not having used it in a long time. I googled up orange and pineapple cocktails and found this one using both. I am also a edible garnish fanatic. They add height to a dish and just elevates it to another level. The dried pineapple flower is simple to make and is packed with flavour. I followed the recipe from Martha Stewart.

The cupcake is super moist and I added Cointreau to both the cupcake and the frosting. I used my basic buttercream frosting recipe for this.

These cupcakes are a part of the March Sweet Adventure Blog Hop challenge. This is my first challenge and though there wasnt a lot of time since I came to know of this, the theme was too tempting..Cocktail Party. So here I am with my ‘sunkiss’-ed cupcakes hopefully making it to the finishing line.
Check out the boozey treats by others at the end of this post.

Pineapple Orange Cupcakes (adapted with variation from Joy of Baking)
Yields 13-14

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temparature
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp grated orange zest
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
2 tbsp Cointreau

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and place rack in centre of oven. Grease or line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a bowl whisk to combine the flour, salt and baking soda.
In the bowl of your electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy(about 2 mins). Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the sour cream, orange zest and Cointreau. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Fold in the crushed pineapple.
Spoon the batter into the paper liners. Bake for 15-20 mins or until light browned and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once completely cooled, frost with buttercream.

Cointreau Buttercream

2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temparature
3 tbsp Cointreau
1 tbsp finely grated orange zest
Food colours (optional)

In an electric mixture or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the Cointreau and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 3-4 mins). Tint the frosting with the desired food colour (I have left it plain here).

To Serve: Garnish each cupcake with a dried pineapple flower on top of the buttercream and insert a toothpick in the centre to prevent it from sliding off.

I will…I can ! Earl Grey-Milk Chocolate and Lemon Mousse Duo

‘As I see it. . . .
I can and I will
Everyday I tell myself that I can and I will.
I find the reasons why I can and why I will succeed.
I paint the vision of my future in my mind and I can see myself standing in the winners circle.
My success starts in my mind and I make it happen as I see it in my visions.’
-Lou Ludwig

That was my healthy dose of optimism for you!

There are days when I rely heavily on some borrowed positivity to get my act together. For a person who once took pride in being determined, planned and organised with everything, life is anything but ‘organised’ at the moment. Life with two young kids can be demanding. And leave you exhausted.

On reminiscing I often wonder where all the “I wills’ of my willpower have disappeared. Funny how situations can transform you. How easy is it for any of us to get knocked down by life at times? But the good news is that I am not done with them yet. The ‘I will-s’ have been replaced with “I can-s’.

Those who have been reading my posts would know by now my weakness for desserts especially cold ones. Mousse comes right at the top of my list of ‘things that make my day’. And this duo has been on my mind for days. I have made them many times individually or in a combination with other flavours. Chocolate and lemon admittedly are not my ‘to die for’ combo. But the addition of Bergamot from the Earl Grey balances it out beautifully. Dark chocolate could be overpowering so I used milk chocolate.

In other news, the kids are excited. Daddy is back tomorrow after a long travel. A huge relief for the family. All are going to benefit from this including you. Maybe I can throw in a few more sweet treats for you here and there.

I can…I can..I CAN!

What that means is i am still somewhere on that track. If i am not running, I am still walking.

Hey…’I can’ rocks!

 



Earl Grey- Milk Chocolate and Lemon Mousse

Serves 4

Earl Grey-Milk Chocolate Mousse

3 Egg Yolks
¼ Cup Sugar(or to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ Cup heavy cream for the custard (Crème Anglaise)
1 Earl Grey tea bag
1/2 Cup Milk chocolate chopped or broken into cubes
2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
¾ Cup Heavy Cream for whipping

Heat the ½ cup cream with the Earl Grey teabag in a saucepan. Beat the egg yolks,sugar and vanilla extract together in a bowl. When the cream reaches boiling point take it off the heat and let the flavours infuse for 15 minutes. Remove the tea bag, add the gelatine, reheat the cream till warm and slowly pour it over the egg mixture whisking constantly. Return the egg-cream mixture to the pan.
Heat the mixture under a medium-low flame, whisking constantly till the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Place the milk chocolate in a bowl. Remove the custard from heat and pass it through a sieve into the bowl of chocolate. Let the mixture remain undisturbed for a while. Stir to smoothen out the chocolate. Cool to room temperature.
While the custard is cooling, whip the remaining ¾ cup cream to stiff peaks. Store in the refrigerator till needed.
When the chocolate mixture has cooled down completely add it to the whipped cream gradually & fold in till no white streaks appear. Pour into serving glasses till half full. Refrigerate till set, about 4 hours or longer.
Lemon Mousse
3/4 cup lemon curd, cold (recipe below)
1/4 cup sugar
1 Cup whipping cream
 
Whisk the cream and sugar together till you reach soft peaks. Fold in the lemon curd slowly. Pour into the serving glasses on top of the Earl grey-milk chocolate mousse. Refrigerate till set, about 4 hours.
Note: to get a stronger flavour of lemon mousse increase the lemon curd by half a cup more. I did not want the lemon flavour to be too strong in the mousse.
 
Lemon Curd
 
3 large eggs
3/4 cup (150gms) granulated white sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
4 tablespoons (56 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon (4 gms) finely shredded lemon zest
 
In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice until blended. Cook stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce). This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate for up to a week.
 
To serve: Decorate with meringue and/or piped chocolate or a dusting of cocoa powder.
 


 

 

 


 

Big Sisters and Little Brothers. And Double Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting.

Many years ago, I met a little boy. He had an angelic face with the cutest curls around them, eyes that told stories of twinkling stars and a smile that could melt the strongest of hearts. Like most little boys, he adored everything with wheels. Toy cars, big cars and makeshift cars (the ones that are generally meant to carry belongings but at times can carry a toddler or two…Suitcases).

I told him stories at bedtime, made him laugh during the day with faces and expressions that only we could read, filled up his stockings with little presents during Christmas Eve and made him cry when he played with my dolls.
We walked together a zillion roads, his fingers tightly clutching mine. Till one day he became the ‘cool guy’. Cool guys don’t hold hands. He morphed into a teenager. Fiercely independent..with an understanding of the world that was so rare of his age..who kept a lot to himself but was always ready to offer a lending a hand. Under the pretext of doing homework we spent many afternoons together, sharing secrets, cracking jokes, hiding behind windows and spraying water on innocent passersby and sneaking into the kitchen to do the ‘great taste test’ for dishes that were meant to be served to guests. Needless to say there were other days when we drove each other crazy and fought over every little thing under the sun. My heart aches to think that those moments can never come back.

Before we realised, the spirited teenager grew into a handsome man with a heart of gold. The responsible son, the doting brother…wise, quick witted, generous, loving…and set out to conquer the world. He made our hearts swell up with pride as he went on achieving milestones. He found himself a partner, equally spirited and loving. A beautiful addition to the family.

I made these cupcakes for my brother’s birthday back in January.While going through a few folders on the laptop, i found these bright pictures during the weekend. I thought they were decent enough to post though very few. I could have taken more had i known I would have a blog someday.
A simple chocolate cupcake made extra chocolaty with the addition of chocolate chips. The frosting is gorgeous.

I did not bake a cake as he was not around to eat it. My brother lives on the other side of the world where the sun sets as it rises here in Sydney. Perhaps he will be here on one of his birthdays to perform the ‘great taste test’ with me.
But our hearts are ever so close and securely fastened with a bond called family. A bond that celebrates childhood, big dreams, secrets and adventures. A bond that lives outside the touch of time.

A bond unique to a Big Sister and her Little Brother.

Double Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting (adapted with a small variation from Joy of Baking)

Chocolate Cupcakes
Yields 16

1/2 cup (50 gms) dutch processed cocoa powder
1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
11/3 cups (175 gms) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (113 gms) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 gms) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Lightly butter, or line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a small bowl stir until smooth the boiling water and cocoa powder. let cool to room temperature. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips.
Then in the bowl of your electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at time, beating until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

Fill each muffin cup about two-thirds full with batter and bake for about 16-20 minutes or until risen, springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. (Do not over bake or the cupcakes will come out dry). Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing. You can either spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a small spatula or pipe lovely swirls.
These cupcakes are best the day they are made but can be stored for a few days.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

120 gms unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup (150 gms) unsalted butter, room temperature
11/3 cups (160 gms) icing sugar sifted
11/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy(about 1 min). Add the sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy(about 2 min). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the chocolate and beat on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is smooth and glossy (about 2-3 min).

 

If its a Sticky Date Pudding it has to be sticky!

This morning as I was cleaning my refrigerator I found myself conflicted. There were bits of this and that everywhere. Egg whites, egg yolks, a cup of lemon curd, some ganache, dates, nuts, shortcrust pastry and a lot of others. I gave my brains a workout and it came up with a world of possibilities all of which were cold. Not surprising! Normally I wouldn’t want to waste a second once i make a decision especially if the outcome excites me. But today was different. The younger twin contracted an infection 3 days ago and has been down with fever and cold ever since.
 
Naturally, i had to make a warm dessert. Something I myself would enjoy during minimal taste sensations. No chocolate this time though.

Before I come to the dessert, there is something else I wanted to convey. Since I write so often about my boys, for the sake of blog identity henceforth I will refer to them as Twin 1 and Twin 2. I don’t feel I am justified in calling them older and younger. And incidentally that is how they were addressed after birth for hospital and immunisation records before they had a name.
Lets talk pudding now. There are two parts to my association with Sticky Date Pudding. Before Australia and after Australia. There were a few recipes I followed before moving to Australia which were alright back then. After I ate it at a cafe in Sydney slathered with sauce and downright delicious, I realised that my puddings were not sticky enough. What! It was a Sticky Date Pudding after all. It had to be sticky. 
That one was stuck in my head for a fact.

I kept looking for the perfect recipe that would be close to the one I had till i found till one. The butterscotch sauce is what makes the difference. I have made this on a number of occasions and I love the simplicity of the recipe. Make it for your guests and try to stop them from licking the plates. At least don’t risk inviting me over.

The boys joined me in the kitchen. Twin 1 counted the dates while Twin 2 whisked the batter with utmost care. Before we realised the puddings were happily rising in the oven as we waited impatiently trying to save some of the butterscotch sauce. Most of it disappeared before the puddings came out. It was a lot of fun.
A day that started with coughs, sneezes, gloomy faces ended on a delicious note between snuggles, cuddles, mischievous grins and a good deal of spoon licking. Such is the magic of food when made and shared together.
 
 The puddings were for my little boys and the praline for the blog.
I did tell you that I am mothering a new responsibility lately…didn’t I?
 
Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch sauce and Almond Praline (Adapted from the Masterchef Australia Cookbook)
Makes 8
180g dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 1/4 cups (310ml) water
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 cup (165g) firmly packed brown sugar
60g butter, softened chopped
2 eggs
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour               
Almond praline
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1/4 cup (35g) slivered almonds               
Butterscotch sauce
50g butter
1 cup (220g) brown sugar
1 cup (250ml) cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (160 degrees C fan-forced). Lightly grease eight (1/2 cup capacity) metal dariole moulds. Place dates and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Remove from the heat. Add bicarbonate of soda, stir until dates start to break down, set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.               
Beat butter and sugar in a bowl using a hand beater, gradually add eggs one at a time, beat until light and fluffy. Add date mixture, stir to combine. Carefully fold through sifted flour, divide mixture evenly between the eight moulds, until 2/3 full.
Place moulds in a baking tray, carefully pour water in tray until it comes up 1/3 of the sides of the mould. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until golden and skewer comes out clean.
Meanwhile for the almond praline, combine sugar and 2 tbsp water in a saucepan and cook caramel over medium heat without stirring, swirling pan until deep golden. Scatter almonds onto a baking paper lined tray. Pour caramel and cool until set. Break praline into pieces.
For the butterscotch sauce combine butter, sugar, cream and vanilla extract in a saucepan over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 5-6 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.  
To serve, invert the hot pudding onto a serving plate, top with butterscotch sauce and shards of praline.