Salted caramels

Chewy, slightly soft, very buttery, nicely salty. What more do you want?

Shiny, sticky, sweet sweet, salted caramels

Shiny, sticky, sweet sweet, salted caramels

This recipe scales up pretty well, I had started out with a larger recipe but decided the 170 mL carton of cream is the most common carton. If you want to scale it down, you’d need to find specialist pots though.

  • 170 mL cream
  • 110 g golden syrup
  • 180 g caster sugar
  • 60 g salted butter
  • 2 g salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Choose a pot that will leave plenty of room for the ingredients to bubble up, I used to use the middle size (18 cm) pot in my saucepan set, but lately I picked up a taller 15cm pot. The pot also needs to be narrow enough that the liquid height reaches the thermometer comfortably.

If you’re using a glass candy thermometer in a metal housing, they usually sit right at the bottom of the pan, as the metal is designed to keep the bulb off the bottom of the pan. With a probe thermometer, you’ll need to adjust the clip (before you put anything into the pot) such that it’s at least 5mm off the bottom of the pot, otherwise you’ll a) get the wrong temperature, b) damage the probe and break your thermometer.

Now that you have the right pot and the thermometer is adjusted, weigh all the ingredients, apart from the vanilla, into the pot. Put the pot on a medium heat and stir until all the sugar is disolved. Clip the thermometer to the pot and allow it to come to 125 °C. In the meantime, line a dish with baking paper (I use a 15 cm x 15 cm square dish).

Caramel in a lined dish

Yes, this 15cm x 25cm dish isn’t the dish I call for in the method, but it’s a good dish for a scaled up quantity or a regular quantity with 100g of salted peanuts.

As soon as it reaches 125 °C, take the pot off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into the prepared dish. Any bubbles can be moved with a spoon, or you can just ignore them. Let the caramel set overnight at room temperature. When set, the caramel can be sliced with a big knife. I usually slice off a row then make it into small pieces before cutting the next row, as when you go boldy into cutting the whole thing as a grid it tends to stick to itself.

At this point, the caramel will tend to absorb water and become sticky and start to melt. *shakes fist at the hygroscopic nature of sugar*
Either keep the caramels in an airtight container, separated with waxed papers, wrap them, or dip them in chocolate to … ehh… protect them from the environment.

Salted caramels, carefully placed on non-stick paper.

Salted caramels, carefully placed on non-stick paper.

To make Ladies Mini Marathons, pour the caramel over 100g of salted roasted peanuts (in a slightly larger dish), then when it’s set, cut it up and dip it in plain chocolate. After the cooled chocolate sits for a few seconds, touch the top with a fork to make tiny little pyramids on top. Even if the chocolate’s not well tempered, or the caramels aren’t fully coated, they still taste great and anyone who likes peanuts in caramel and chocolate will be demanding you make more of them, for practise of course.

A montage of ladies mini marathons

A montage of ladies mini marathons

Baileys and milk chocolate cheesecake

Instead of trifle and romantica, for Christmas dessert this year my mother requested I made my lemon drizzle cake and she’d make a Bailey’s cheesecake. When the drizzle cake was made, I offered to make the cheesecake while I was at it, as I love making cheesecake and don’t make it as much since I moved to Dublin (my beloved doesn’t care for it, and the fridge in work is just manky so you can’t offload it there). I probably based the recipe off a few other cheesecakes I made years back. Before I left for Dublin, I left the recipe with my mother who gets to make it a lot more often than I do, so I just used that piece of paper instead of my memory.

It’s gelatine free, the chocolate ganache isn’t runny so it stays reasonably stiff. If you like, you can leave out the Baileys. Use the best chocolate you can find, there’s so few ingredients that you want to use the finest you can.

The biscuits are counted out as filling the 18cm loose bottomed tin at a depth of approximately 2 biscuits, I’m not sure how much they weigh, someday I’ll check. Crush them in a strong plastic bag, ziplock top bags are usually sturdy enough or double bag a thin sandwich bag. You can bash the biscuits with a rolling pin or you can just mash them with your fingers. Chocolate digestives work well with it too, they’re smaller, so you’ll need more than eleven 🙂 For a larger tin, scale up the biscuits and butter, scaling the cheesecake depends on whether you like a huge layer of cheesecake on the base or not.

The mother's xmas table with cheesecake

Floral arrangement by my mother, laser cut decorations by Fiona Snow, cheesecake by me.

  • 11 mcvities digestive biscuits all crushed up (for other brands see my above advice on measuring out)
  • 75g butter melted
  • 200 + 50 mL cream
  • 200 g best quality milk chocolate (we usually use the Lindt extra creamy, all of two bars go into the cake, so you’ll need a third to munch on)
  • 360g full fat cream cheese (2 philadelphia tubs)
  • 75 g baileys (about two Irish measures (37.5mL) or three UK measures (25 mL ) )

Melt the chocolate with 50 mL of the cream. Stir well and set the ganache aside to cool.

Crush the biscuits well. Stir into the melted butter and press into the bottom a loose bottom or springform tin (my mother’s tin is about 18cm in diameter, you can use slightly larger too). Pop into the fridge until you’re ready for it.

When the chocolate ganache is cool, beat it into the cream cheese, then beat in the baileys. Whip the remaining cream. Fold the cream into the chocolate mix, then pour on to the biscuit base. Put in the fridge for at least 2 hours if not over night.

To get the cake out of a loose bottom tin, put it on top of a can (beans, chopped tomatoes, it doesnt matter), and press down evenly on the sides. There’ll be minimal cheesecake left stuck to the sides. For springform, loosen the spring slightly, if you need to free the cake a little, run a knife around the edge. Then open the spring fully and lift it off carefully. Then enjoy any cheesecake that was stuck to the sides!

part eaten piece of cheesecake

Om nom nom, this wasn’t my first slice of this, so I could eat it slow enough to take pictures…

Peanutbutter Brownies

A number of members of my collaborator’s group are leaving for pastures new, so I have made cake as a goodbye-you’re-really-gonna-miss-it-here gift.

raw brownies

The brownies prior to baking. The peanutbutter and chocolate chunks sink into the hot brownie batter during cooking, so this method allows even distribution of filling.

The recipe is my usual brownies recipe (also found in the cheesecakebrownies recipe) with the addition of blobs of peanutbutter instead of nuts. I did have nuts, but it was a bag of hazelnuts, and would have needed roasting and skinning, but peanut butter is delicious with chocolate, so this “laziness” worked out well too.

  • 225g butter
  • 375g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs (orignal recipe called for 4 medium, but we buy ex large normally)
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 100g bar of chocolate (or “chocolate”, as I often use scotbar)
  • Peanutbutter (about 3 tablespoons, have more than enough anyway, there should always be peanutbutter in a kitchen)

Grease and/or line a cake tin (I used my 17cm tin and a small dish, the small dish is for have a small set of home brownies when the big tin is brought to work). Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (170° for fan ovens).

Melt the butter and add the sugar. Beat in the eggs one by one. Sift the cocoa and flour together, and add to the mix in three parts.

Divide between cake tin(s). Break up the chocolate bar and plop pieces around on the brownie. Get a teaspoon and a knife and plop 0.5tsp sized dollops about the surface. The chocolate and the peanutbutter will sink during cooking anyway. Put into the oven for 40 mins.

Cooked brownies

See? Allllllll sunk into the brownies. The greaseproof paper means the sunk/melted chocolate chunks wont glue the cake to the tin (trust me, voice of experience, chocolate glue is hard to get off tins without heating).

Let the brownies cool in their tin, then turn them out and cut them up. Alternatively, don’t wait for them to cool and attack them with a spoon… just mind yourself, they’re pretty hot.

spoon on a brownie

Too impatient to wait for them to cool…

Cheesecake brownies (bonus three recipes in one)

I’ve been meaning to make cheesecake brownies for a few years. I’ve a great recipe for brownies from Chocolate Cookery (you’ll have to look this one up on abebooks) and an equally great recipe for white chocolate cheesecake. Others have combined these before with much success, so it was my turn to have a go off them.

Slices of cheesecake brownies waiting to be brought to college

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Microwave experiments – chocolate sauce

After rearranging the freezer to fit stuff in properly, I (re)discovered a tub of Aldi Strawberry flavour frozen yoghurt. This stuff is actually really nice, more fake strawberry sweets flavour than Wexford’s finest, but that suits me down to the ground. On its own it can be a little dull, and I’m all out of chocolate or otherwise sauces, so I decided to have a bash off making a quick chocolate sauce.

Many of the nice chocolatey sauces I’d come across before contained golden syrup to make them sticky, so I figured I’d bung some of that in (well, honey, as there was a squeezy bottle to hand, and the tin of golden syrup is a bit of a pain). I also threw in some butter, to give that nice buttery flavour and also to stop the chocolate being so firm (just in case the syrup didn’t do it’s thing). The chocolate came from Lidl and was very nice. “Bellarom creamy milk chocolate” is what the packet tells me.

After microwaving, the chocolate still looked solid, but the liquidy ingredients were well hot, so after years of making ganaches, I just gave it a few second to stand and then stirred it till the chocolate was smoothly distributed. At first the sauce on the frozen yoghurt (I keep calling it icecream tbh) was nice and saucey, but when it got chilled by the icecream it turned into a lovely soft-chewy toffee. So there was both failure and success in the same chewy bite. Will certainly refine this micro-sauce method in future.

Chocolate sauce on frozen yoghurt

Chocolate sauce on Aldi's finest fake strawberry flavour frozen yoghurt (it's actually well tasty if you like that sort of thing)

Into a microwavable mug add:

  • 40g milk chocolate (the total bar weight, divided into the relevant number of chunks, practising arithmetic is good for you)
  • 2 tsp honey or golden syrup (squeezy bottles of these are great)
  • 1 heaped tsp of butter (ie a chunk that fits on a teaspoon and some bit above)

Microwave on full power for 20 seconds (I have no idea what wattage my microwave oven is, and I have no intention of pulling it out to read the sticker on the back (why they can’t write these things on the front is beyond me)). Be careful, the honey/syrup will have gotten pretty hot at this stage. Stir until all the chocolate is melted and pour quickly over icecream. If you eat it immediately the first bits of sauce are still runny, if you take loads of photos until you get a non-blurry one, it’ll be a bit toffee/chewy, but still nice (guess what happened to me…). Makes enough for one bowl of icecream for greedy people, two if you can share and aren’t fond of loads of sauce.

Chocolate biscuit cake experimentation

I’ve had half a pack of digestives staring at me for the last week and a bit. Shocking stuff I know, but as a caffeine half-intolerant (none after lunch) coffee drinker and someone who doesnt like tea, I don’t have much opportunity for chowing on digestives in the evenings. The other half of the packet was sacrificed to the noble cause of being a cheesecake base (I’ll write it up soon, honest). I’ve never made chocolate biscuit cake before and got the idea into my head earlier that that’s how I’ll use up the biscuits.

A Slice of Chocolate Biscuit Cake

A squidgy slice of chocolate biscuit cake, and a butterknife covered in squidge

I couldn’t find a recipe in one of my books, so armed with duckduckgo I did a quick search. The one I settled for is roughly based on the odlums recipe, except for a few changes due to what I had to hand. I can vouch for maltesers being great in biscuit cake, but I dont usually have them lying around the house.

  • 200g chocolate digestives (broken up, not pulverised)
  • 140g butter
  • 80g golden syrup
  • 125g dark chocolate
  • 1 dessertspoon cocoa powder

Put the butter, chocolate, and syrup in a pyrex jug and microwave on full for 40 seconds. Stir, and put it in for another 40 seconds. Stir and decide if it’s no longer lumpy or not, if needed give another short nuke/stir cycle. If the mix is smooth, mix in the cocoa powder and then throw in the biscuits. Smush into a lined springform tin or cake tin and chill in the fridge (honestly, the lining is essential, I poured straight into my springform tin with a nubbly-cheesecake-holding base, whoops).

After chilling for two hours, I took the squidgy slice shown above, despite being imperfect it’s still lovely with a big glass of milk. I reckon it’ll set better by the morning (I’ll let you know if it doesn’t). Changes to be made in the future: increase biscuity content (quantity AND type, eg. rich tea), add malteasers, line the base of the tin, learn to wait for it to chill overnight.