The Pastry Station - sticky apple and date pudding with cider brandy custard

In case you hadn't noticed, it's pretty cold! Here's a dessert to make you forget

This week, with the serious chill setting in, our Director of Food Matt Byne has been seriously thinking about comfort food. Meanwhile, we've been hosting apple week at all of our workplaces - which has meant a dish featuring apple as an ingredient every single day.

we've been showing off the beauty of British season apples

Needless to say, this worked out as the perfect combination! Here's Matt's sweet, indulgent treat that makes the post of sweet seasonal russet apples and is designed to chase away the winter blues.

Sticky apple and date pudding with cider brandy custard

Makes 6 small sponges

Ingredients For the pudding: 225g whole Medjool dates 175g boiling water 175g self-raising flour, plus extra for greasing 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda 2 egg 85g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing 140g demerara sugar 2 tbsp black treacle 100ml milk 2 russet apples (grated)

For the toffee sauce: 175g light muscovado sugar 50g butter, cut into pieces 225ml double cream 1 tbsp black treacle

For the cider brandy custard: 25ml Cider Brandy 450m double cream 1 vanilla pod, scraped 6 egg yolks 160g caster sugar

Method

Stone and chop the dates quite small, put them in a bowl, then pour over the boiling water. Leave this for about 30 mins until cool and well-soaked, then mash a bit with a fork.

Butter and flour seven mini pudding tins (each about 200ml/7fl oz) and sit them on a baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

While the dates are soaking, make the puddings.

Mix the flour and bicarbonate of soda together and set aside. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until slightly creamy. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well between additions.

Beat in the black treacle and then, using a large metal spoon, gently fold in one-third of the flour and bicarb mixture, then half the milk. It should be only just mixed together, and be careful not to overbeat.

Repeat until all the flour and milk is used. Stir the soaked dates and grated apple into the pudding batter.

Spoon it evenly between the tins and bake for 20-25 mins, until risen and firm.

Remove the puddings from the oven. Leave in the tins for a few mins, then loosen them well from the sides of the tins with a small palette knife before turning them out to cool.

To make the toffee sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy pan, add the sugar and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add half the cream and bring to boil until the sugar has dissolved completely.

Add the treacle and boil for a further 2-3 mins.

Add the remaining cream and bring back to the boil. Keep warm until ready to serve.

To make the cider brandy custard, whisk the sugar, egg yolks and seeds from the vanilla pod in a largwe bowl until light and fluffy.

Heat the cream in a heavy bottomed pan.

Pour the hot cream onto the eggs and sugar mixture and whisk together. Pour the mix back into the pan and cook on a low heat until the mixture thickens. Make sure you stire constantly to avoid it catching or splitting.

Add the cider brandy and serve with the sponges and the toffee sauce.