I remember the moment I fell in love with textiles. I was studying fashion design at Parsons when the draping instructor suggested I attend an exhibit of 18th century textiles at the Met. I wasn't entirely sure that I wanted to see a bunch of dusty old fabrics. "Go", she said. "they will inspire you."
Coming out of a lifetime of denim, polyester, and cotton jersey, I was hopelessly unprepared for the opulence of that exhibit. Printed chintzes, sumptuous velvet brocades, luxe silk damasks, allegorical Toile de Jouy, gossamer laces—each one a masterpiece of fiber and thread. Collectively, they told a story of a pre-industrial era of impeccable craftsmanship and a soignee world of extravagance and luxury. I had no desire to possess them, I wanted only to bask in their splendor.
I was, indeed, inspired.
If ever there was to be an exhibit of Pure Luxury, foie gras would make a salient display. The luxury of foie is not in its price, though considerable, but in the sensual experience of consuming it. I've always found it's velvety mouthfeel and resonant flavor to be more hedonistically aligned with a rich dessert.
Among other things, studying fashion instilled in me an awareness of trends and the cycles of design; most are just revivals of old elements made new for modern taste. Looking through a book of medieval cookery, I was struck by how many savory dishes were made sweet with honey and fruits. Now, it seems, the dessert cycle has leaned towards the savory— adding salt, savory herbs, vegetables and animal. The latter— lest we forget— includes eggs, butter and cream. How to take it to the next step? Are we ready for fish, flesh, or offal even, in our dessert? Maybe we'll never be ready for candied kidneys, but in regards to foie gras, I can only wonder "what took so long?".
Brandy-soaked cubes of foie, embedded in moist cakes redolent of dates and muscavado, an arabesque of sticky sweet brandy-spiked sauce— it is the stuff of baroque fairy tales; a decadence fit for kings and queens— the gustatory equivalent of brocade pillows and damask sheets.
sticky toffee foie pudding
40g foie gras, cleaned of veins
130g Tuaca or brandy
60g dates, roughly chopped
86g reserved Tuaca or brandy from soaking foie
56g unsalted butter at room temperature
55g muscovado sugar
4g baking soda
6g baking powder
78g muscovado sugar
175g heavy cream
30g reserved Tuaca or brandy from soaking foie
Cut foie with a heated knife into 6 cubes, each measuring 1.25cm x 1.25 cm x 2cm and place in small bowl. Pour Tuaca or brandy over foie to submerge (use more if needed). Set aside to marinate for 2 hours. Strain through a fine sieve, reserving brandy for cake and sauce.
Heat 86g of reserved brandy in a small saucepan to 43C/110F. Add dates and cook over very low heat for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, cover, and set aside for 10-15 minutes to soften dates. Stir the dates and brandy vigorously with a wooden spoon until they break up and the mixture looks like a chunky puree. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 176C/350F. Grease 6 small dariole molds. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat for 2 minutes, then add the date/brandy puree and beat for 1 minute. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to mixer. Beat for 1-2 minutes, or just until incorporated.
Spoon batter into each of greased molds until half full. Place a cube of marinated foie in each of the molds, then cover with remaining batter until molds are nearly full. Place filled molds in a baking dish, spacing them 5cm apart. Pour boiling water into baking dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the molds. Immediately cover tightly with foil and place in oven. Bake for 12 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when pressed. Remove cakes from water bath, cover loosely with foil to keep warm while making sauce.
To make sauce: Place all ingredients except brandy in a medium saucepan. Set over medium heat and whisk while cooking until thick and smooth, about 4- 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 30g of reserved brandy until smooth and silky.
To serve: Unmold the warm cakes and dip each one in the sauce, rolling around until well coated. Transfer each to serving plate and carefully spoon a small amount of sauce over the top, letting it drip down the sides. Serve warm.