It’s time for comfort desserts. Forget calories; think pleasure. Homey desserts are what count here, not complex presentations or preparations.
Here are my all-time comfort dessert winners. This Warm Toffee Pudding Cake with creme fraiche is what a comfort dessert is all about--homey, warm and sweet. Gail Forsberg, a Chicago pastry chef, shared the recipe with me.
Baked Alaska Ice Cream Pie runs a close second. It can be made with various flavored ice creams, but my preference is for coffee java chip. The Warm Bittersweet Sauce is spooned over the soft meringue and cold ice cream.
The desserts can be made in advance and frozen.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Set aside a greased 10-inch springform (wrap the exterior of the pan tightly in foil if it tends to leak).
Place the dates and 2 tablespoons of the flour in a food processor and process until very finely minced, about 40 seconds. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the boiling water and baking soda. Refrigerate for 1 hour or let stand until completely cooled (the date mixture should not be warm when mixed into the batter).
Use a mixer to cream the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Sift the remaining 2 cups of flour, baking powder and salt.
Add the date mixture to the egg mixture alternating with the flour mixture, mixing until smooth and flowing. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet (for easier handling).
Bake the cake until browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour, 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven. Set a broiler pan about 5 inches from the heat source to catch any drips from the cake; heat the broiler.
While the cake is hot, use a thin metal or wooden skewer to poke holes all over the top of the cake. Spread the toffee topping slowly over the cake to allow it to be absorbed; also spread it as evenly as possible. Broil until the top is bubbly, rotating as necessary, about 1 minute--do not let the topping burn. (The cake can be cooled and kept at room temperature overnight, lightly covered, or frozen as long as 1 month, wrapped airtight. To serve, reheat, covered with foil, in a 350-degree oven until warmed through, about 20 minutes. It can also be taken directly from the freezer and reheated, covered with foil, in a 350-degree oven, about 40 minutes.) Serve the cake warm with a dollop of creme fraiche.
While the pudding cake is baking, place the butter, sugar and cream in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until combined and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
12 servings. Each serving: 420 calories; 341 mg sodium; 76 mg cholesterol; 16 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 68 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 2.02 grams fiber.
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