Every year for Christmas Eve, for as long as I can remember, we have been eating pirog (savory russian pie… we have two kinds, meat and cabbage) and broth at my grandmother’s house, with no fewer than three desserts… just the five of us. Well, my grandmother is getting pretty old, and she always used to add a dish to our Christmas Eve menu, like game hens, or duck… and all we ever really wanted was the pirog.

Well the past three or so years, we have been having Christmas Eve dinner at my parent’s house, and still haven’t managed to just have pirog. One year I made ravioli (which wasn’t as blog worthy as the ravioli I just posted about (but it was delicious)) in addition to the Pirog, and of course we couldn’t escape from less than three desserts.

This year we finally got a grip on ourselves, and made nothing besides a salad, the broth, and just one dessert (with a delicious component), and let my grandmother bring the component.
For dessert, we decided to attempt our own sticky toffee cakes, and as an added bonus, home-made cardamom ice-cream.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup rum
8 ounces dates
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
Pre-heat the oven to 350º.
Cut the dates in half, and take out the pits. Drop them into a small saucepan with the rum and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 5-10 minutes until soft.
Pour date mixture in a food processor and purée. Transfer the purée to a bowl, and allow to cool completely.
In a bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, kosher salt and ground cinnamon.
In a larger bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a hand-held mixture or the paddle attachment on a stand mixer. When light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time. Alternate adding the flour and date mixture, but be careful not to overmix.
Spray a regular-sized muffin pan, and evenly distribute the mixture amongst 12 spaces. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
When they are done baking, carefully lift each cake and pour two teaspoons of pre-prepared toffee sauce (recipe below). Let the cakes sit in their toffee sauce for 10 minutes, then flip them onto a cooling rack over a wax paper covered baking sheet.
Pour, or drench each cake in extra toffee sauce, and serve warm with cardamom ice cream (recipe also below).
Toffee Sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup rum
Combine the heavy cream, dark brown sugar, and unsalted butter. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the temperature to medium. Continue cooking the mixture for about four minutes or so. Stir the mixture occasionally. add the rum, and continue cooking for about three minutes.
(Special thanks to Martha Stewart and Lindsey from Gingerbread Bagels for this recipe).
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
8 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed*
3/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
3/4 cups whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
(makes a little under two pints according to our ice cream maker)
Combine the milk, vanilla bean and crushed cardamom pods into a saucepan, and bring slowly to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and let sit and infuse for 20 minutes. Take out the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the liquid. Also remove the crushed cardamom pods.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale. Slowly re-heat the milk mixture, and pour a little into the egg mixture, then add the egg mixture to the milk mixture and stir on a low heat. DO NOT BOIL, the eggs will scramble :(.
Remove from the heat and cool. Whip the whipping cream with a hand-mixer, not quite to soft peaks. Add the ground cardamom, and freeze in your ice cream maker. We have a hand-crank ice-cream maker, so we had to hand-crank it for 15-20 minutes, and then freeze it the rest of the way.
Recipe courtesy of The Spice House.
If you can find green cardamom pods in bulk, buy them that way, and only a few more than you need. They are a very expensive spice, like vanilla beans and saffron. $38/pound (I believe). They are easy to crush with the back of a spoon, or the side of a knife.