Caramel {Millionaire’s} Shortbread

When I was in sixth form I once tried to make caramel shortbread when my parents were away. Yes, I was the teenager who embarked on ill-planned and over-ambitious baking in the absence of my parents. Crazy parties? Nope, flour in every corner imaginable and slightly ruined baking tins were more my style.  Anyway, it went quite wrong. I can’t really remember why, I think it got stuck in a tin which I wasn’t meant to be using anyway or something. Anyway, I thought I’d try again. Not to take this too seriously or anything, but with caramel shortbread it’s all about ratio. Ask any self- respecting lover of this traybake, and they’ll happily go into great detail about how much of each mouthful should be shortbread, how much caramel, and how much chocolate. Shop bought versions tend to be woefully uneven in this respect: think, a massive wedge of shortbread and comparatively inconsequential layers of both caramel and chocolate. A travesty. This recipe, on the other hand, gives you the perfect levels of caramel vs. chocolate and shortbread. Also, they’re super tasty. Well, I think so anyway.

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Glorious layers

 

Ingredients

For the shortbread

50g sugar

150g butter (unsalted technically, but I basically never have it in and salted was fine)

250g plain flour

 For the caramel

175g butter (again, should have been unsalted but I used salted and it was fine)

175g sugar

4 tbsp golden syrup

397ml condensed milk (standard tin size)

For the topping

300g chocolate (I used a mix of milk and dark, because that’s what I had lying around. I think all dark would be fine, but you might want to avoid all milk since it might tip these over from deliciously sweet to downright sickly)

– You’ll need the oven at 160 (fan 140, gas mark 3). Line a standard rectangular tin with greaseproof paper, making sure that there is some overhang at the edges – it’ll come in handy when you come to lift the traybake out later.

– Make the shortbread. Place the sugar, butter and flour into a large bowl – mix it all together, and then get your hands in and rub the fat into the flour/sugar until all of the lumps of butter are gone and you’ve got a soft breadcrumb type mix. It should hold together if you squeeze together a clump in your palm. (If you have a food processor, use that – I don’t though, and the hand mix option worked fine!)

– Tip the mixture into the lined tin, spread it out and use your fingers or the back of a spoon to press it down gently; you want it to be even and smooth.

– Now pop the tin in the fridge for about twenty minutes to harden things up, before baking for around 35 minutes, or until golden. Leave to cool.

– Next, make the caramel. Place the butter, sugar, condensed milk and golden syrup in a small saucepan over a low heat— heat gently and stir to combine all of the ingredients.

– Once the butter has melted and the ingredients have combined, you’ll need to keep stirring right to the bottom of the pan to make sure that the caramel doesn’t stick or burn. Bubble for about 5- 8 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened considerably – it’ll be thick, but still of pouring consistency.

– As soon as it’s ready, pour the caramel over the shortbread, and spread into an even layer if need be. Leave to cool.

– Melt the chocolate however you like – you could use the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water trick, but I favour the microwave. This works just fine as long as you cover the chocolate vessel and check/ stir it regularly to avoid burning.

– Pour the melted chocolate over the cool caramel, and spread it out into an even layer.

– Now just leave it all to cool. Once the chocolate is set, use a sharp knife to mark out and then cut into squares.

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Arty angles

 

If you write a blog, now is the time to wander around your flat looking for the best natural light. Once you’ve found it, you’ll want to put something vaguely attractive in the background; probably not that pile of receipts/bills or that tin of baked beans. Anything pastel or crafty is probably a good call. Even better if you have things that are pastel AND baking-related. If you’re truly dedicated, sprinkle some chocolate chips around about. Now, arrange your baking in an arty way, and take ridiculously-angled photographs until it looks pretty. Ignore the sceptical glances of anybody you may live with, surely they should be used to this by now?

If you have no need for arty and beautifully presented images of your creations, then feel free to just eat them. Much more sensible.

This recipe is adapted slightly from BakingMad.com. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Christmas Baking: Mince Pies

I never used to like mince pies. But this year I’ve warmed to them considerably, for whatever reason. The shop bought ones we had in work were suddenly moderately enjoyable. But then I came home and had some of my mum’s. And they’re AMAZING. I know Christmas day has been and gone, but I recently learned in a Christmas quiz that apparently you’re meant to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas for good luck. But feel free not to limit yourself to one a day. In fact if you make these, I challenge you to limit yourself to one a day. Oh, and the crowning glory of a good mince pie has to be brandy butter. So I’ve included my mum’s recipe for that as well. She is, after all, the Queen of Baking herself. (Step aside, Mary Berry).

The amounts here make a lot of pies (six dozen i.e. 60, to be precise) so you might want to halve the amount if you’re not confident you’ll get through them all. Although they do freeze really well, and make lovely presents. Am I overselling? Never.

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You literally have no idea how long it took me to get that swirl of brandy butter to look aesthetically acceptable

 

Mince Pies

Ingredients

For the pastry

1lb/450g plain flour
6oz/175g lard
6oz/175g margarine
4oz/110g icing sugar
Grated zest and juice of one orange

For the mincemeat

1lb/450g cooking apples – peeled, cored and finely chopped

2 stewed apples*

8oz/225g shredded suet

12oz/350g raisins

8oz/325g sultanas

8oz/325g currants

12oz/350g soft dark brown sugar

Rind and juice of two oranges

Rind and juice of two lemons

4 tspn mixed spice

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

*I don’t know if this is a universally recognised ingredient, or a Daley family thing. It’s just cooking apples which have been cut into chunks and cooked on a low heat with a bit of sugar or syrup until they’re really mushy. You might need a tiny bit of water if they start to look like they’re drying out before they’ve reached a decent mush.

Directions

– The day before you want to bake your mince pies, you’ll need to make your mincemeat. I know this is a time-consuming process, but that’s a big part of its beauty.

– Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.

– Cover with a cloth and leave for at least twelve hours, covered with a tea towel.

– If you intend to make all of the mincemeat into pies straight away, or within the next week, then it’ll keep fine in an airtight container in the fridge.

– If you want to store it for longer, then you’ll need to place it a baking dish loosely covered with foil, and warm it in a cool oven at 120c for about three hours. This slowly melts the suet and allows it to coat the rest of the ingredients, which prevents fermentation from taking place if too much juice seeps from the apples while you’re storing it.

-Then allow it to get cold and spoon into clean, dry jars. Cover with waxed discs and seal.

– On the day selected for mince pie making, preheat the oven to 180c.

– To make the pastry, rub the fat into the flour and icing sugar

– Add the grated rind and enough juice to make a pastry consistency

(If you’re a pastry newbie, then check out this tutorial from Delia Smith for a better guide.)

– Wrap in cling film, then rest in the fridge for at least half an hour

– Roll out the pastry (again, the tutorial from Delia above has a few tips)

– Now use a circular cutter to make the discs that’ll hold the mincemeat, and stars for the tops of the pies (or you could use another disc if you prefer, but I like the less- pastry approach since it’s lighter and more interesting to look at).

– Place the discs in the bottoms of the cupcake tray, and push down gently so that they mould to the ‘cup’ shape. You don’t need to grease the trays since there’s a lot of fat in the pastry that’ll stop the pies from sticking.

– Divide the mincemeat equally between the cups, then top each with a pastry star.

– Brush the top of each star with a little milk, then bake for 10- 12 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

To serve, whip up some brandy butter. It’s very easy- in fact, it’s barely a recipe.

You need to make some buttercream by creaming together butter/ margarine and icing sugar. I don’t use a recipe for this, I just tend to start with some butter, then gradually add icing sugar until it’s quite a stiff buttercream. Then I add brandy to taste. To quote my mum directly, there’s only enough brandy when it ‘catches at the back of your throat’. So er, that amount. Beat it all together until lovely and smooth, and dollop generously on top of whatever you feel like; it goes well with anything Christmassy- Christmas pudding and Christmas cake as well as mince pies.

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The artistic bite

And now you can officially scorn shop bought mince pies. And forever wear the smug smile of somebody who ‘handcrafts their own mince pies, actually.’*

*I don’t actually recommend saying this out loud. It would make you an unbearable Christmas guest…

In terms of credit, the pastry recipe came from a family friend who was an amazing cook- she recently passed away, so it’s nice to make these and think of her and how she used to care for people by cooking for them. The mincemeat recipe is the one my mum has used for over twenty years, which she cut out of a supermarket recipe magazine, and has since adapted a little.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.