What does it mean to be in one’s neutral mind? I busted myself the other day pulling the neutral mind card: falling into the belief that being in one’s neutral mind means not reacting, maintaining composure, and “rising above” those inconvenient and uncomfortable emotions that blindside us when we least expect it. In other words, my finger was hovering dangerously close to the old NUMB button! Similar to a spiritual bypass, thinking about the neutral mind in this way can pull us out of our authentic human experience in much the same way.
In our desire to achieve a neutral mind, we might deny, suppress, or otherwise numb ourselves to our feelings in the name of higher spiritual ground. In doing so, however, we halt the authentic flow of our process. So how can we hold a neutral mind and honour our emotions? Awareness. Did you know I was going to say that? The neutral mind is not about numbing out to our emotional experience. It’s about cultivating a non-judgmental (i.e., neutral) allowance of it and letting it run its natural course. It’s an opening up to flow, not a shutting down or damming up of what is. It is in this awareness, in saying “yes” to each moment as it presents itself, that grace is found. And besides all that, who wants to be a stone anyway?
The word “pudding” conjures up different associations for all of us. It could be the overly sweet chocolate Jello pudding pack your dad used to put in your school lunches without a spoon to eat it with (thanks, Dad!). It could be the rum-laden raison infested dense cake your grandma sets on fire after every Christmas dinner. Or it could be, it just might be, the single most yummiest dessert you’ve ever tasted when you put the words “StickyToffee” in front of it. I decided to try out Angela’s recipe on 12 non-vegans last week and the table went wild; it was a show-stopper to say the least. A caramelly, moist, warm, gooey, cakey conglomerate nestled up beside a cold scoop of melty ice cream, drizzled with toffee sauce and finished with a sprinkling of toasted pecans. Need I say more? I don’t think that sentence could get any longer. I made a few changes to Angela’s recipe, such as subbing spelt flower and using a mix of brown sugar with raw cane sugar (simply because I ran out of brown sugar), but I think you’d be hard pressed to screw up this cake as its moistness lends itself to a large margin of delicious error.
Angela Lidden’s Sticky Toffee Pudding (say what!?)
[Recipe and instructions have been cut and pasted from Ohsheglows.com, my changes noted in brackets]
For the cake:
- 200 grams pitted dates (about 1.5 cups), roughly chopped
- 1.5 cups almond milk
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup Earth Balance (or other vegan butter substitute), lightly softened
- 1/4 cup unpacked brown sugar and 1/4 cup Sucanat (my change)
- 3/4 cup toasted chopped pecans, divided
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 & 1/2 cups spelt flour (my change)
For the toffee sauce:
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp brown rice syrup*
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp unpacked brown sugar (35 grams) OR Sucanat
- 3 tbsp Earth Balance
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp almond milk
- salt, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 325F and toast the pecans for about 8-10 mins. Now, preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9-inch pie dish or an 8-inch square pan with Earth Balance. .
2. In a medium sized pot, bring 1.5 cups of almond milk to a low boil. Add in the chopped and pitted dates and reduce heat to low. Cook for 1 minute, remove from heat, and stir in baking soda. It will froth up a bit.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the softened Earth Balance and brown sugar until no clumps remain. You can also use an electric mixer if desired. Now add in the date & almond milk mixture and stir.
4. Add the dry ingredients (cinnamon, salt, 1/2 cup of pecans, and whole wheat pastry flour) into the wet and stir until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish.
5. Bake at 375F for 27-28 minutes, or until the cake gently springs back when you touch it.
6. Toffee sauce: About 10 mins before the cake is done, make your toffee sauce by whisking together the sauce ingredients in a pot (use the same one). Bring to a low simmer over medium heat, and then reduce heat to low, whisking frequently making sure it doesn’t burn. Heat for about 5 minutes while standing over the pot to stir & watch. Remove from heat and set aside.
7. Remove cake from oven, let it cool for a few minutes, and then prick with a fork or toothpick all over. I made about 100 holes. Pour 2/3 of the toffee sauce over the top of the cake (reserving the other 1/3 of the sauce for later) and smooth out with a spoon.
8. Scoop out your portions onto plates, drizzle with remaining sauce, and top with toasted pecans. Serve with a side of your favourite vegan ice cream