I would recommend doing this in a big gratin dish (about 28cm x 16cm, base measurements) rather than individual portions.
- 200 g stoned dates
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 12 slices white bread
- 75 g butter, very soft
- 3 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 75 g caster sugar
- 500 ml cream
- Sprinkle Demerara sugar
Sticky toffee sauce
- 100 g butter
- 100 g golden syrup
- 100 g soft dark brown sugar
- 100 ml crème fraiche
- Heat the dates with about 300 ml water and the bicarbonate of soda.The water should just cover the dates.
- Simmer for about 5-10 minutes till the mixture is quite dry and the texture is mushy but still "spreadable".Cut the crusts off the bread, butter it generously on both sides and put 6 slices on the base of the gratin dish.
- Hopefully, they will snugly fit in one, neat layer. When the dates are ready, spread them over the bread, and then finish with the last six slices of bread.
- Whisk the eggs (and egg yolks) along with the sugar. Scrape the vanilla seeds into this mixture and whisk like crazy.
- Heat the cream along with the empty vanilla pod until just starting to boil.
- When the eggs are light and voluminous, pour the scalding cream on top and stir with a wooden spoon. Then pour this mixture onto the bread and date layers and leave to soak for at least half an hour. You may have to press down a bit.
- Preheat oven to 170 C.Sprinkle with the Demerara sugar before baking for about 25 minutes. It will still be a bit wobbly in the centre but should be a gorgeous golden brown.
- Don't overcook it, or it will lose the lovely soft and silky quality. So err on the side of less cooking time and the custard base will keep on cooking even when it’s removed from the oven.
- Pour the toffee sauce on it while still warm and serve with a big blob of whipped cream.
- To make the toffee sauce, heat the butter, syrup and sugar in a small non-stick saucepan until the sugar has melted and it’s a thick but fairly smooth paste.
- Take off the heat and whisk in the crème fraiche. Be careful as it may splutter a bit. Will keep for a few days in the fridge, no bother.