I thought you’d like this recipe for my salted caramel millionaires shortbread before Christmas. It’s an easy one, obviously, for no-one needs added stress at this time of year. And it’s delicious too. I am looking forward to Christmas this year very much, and I am absolutely committed to not adding extra stress, as I am prone to doing. READ MORE
So really, all in all, I’m trying to manage your expectations. It’s not that I don’t want you to make them. I do. These are good. Oh my, they are GOOD. You could make yourself sick eating the whole lot and still want to go back for more. However, they’re a bit of a pain in the backside.
But like my good friend Kitty says about women – all the best ones are a bit of a pain in the backside. In my opinion, the same applies to chocolate-peanut snacks.
P.S. Please, please, please don’t sub the dry roasted peanuts for salted peanuts, or, heaven forbid, unsalted peanuts. They need to be dry roasted. I know it seems wrong, but just trust me on this one.
I made a lovely video with the Scoff folks to show how to make these homemade Snickers. You can see the vid on my YouTube channel and also the Scoff one. You can watch it below too.
Oil a tray size 30 x 40cm (ish) with a little olive oil and cut a piece of non-stick baking parchment to fit the bottom. Melt half the milk chocolate with 1 tbsp olive oil in the microwave until molten. Tip into the tray and level out by tapping the tin on the work surface. Leave to set in the fridge.
Once the chocolate has set, make the nougat by placing the granulated sugar, honey, liquid glucose and 230mls cold water into a saucepan over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat and boil until it reaches 150°C (use a sugar thermometer).
Whisk the egg whites in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until you achieve soft peaks, then when the sugar thermometer is at 160°C slowly pour the boiling sugar into the egg white mixture with the whisk rotating at a medium speed. Try and aim the sugar at the egg whites rather than at the edge of the bowl.
Let the mixer whisk for about 3 – 4 minutes at a high speed until the mixture is very thick, starts to pull away from the side of the bowl and the stand mixer feels like it might be struggling. Stop the mixer then add the peanut butter and stir with a spatula or spoon then tip onto the chocolate layer. Straight away, tip the dry roasted peanuts over the top evenly and then press down with a piece of oiled non-stick baking parchment. Leave to set.
Make the caramel by heating the cream in a pan until boiling point. At the same time heat the golden syrup and the granulated sugar in a large pan until 155°C (use a jam thermometer), then remove from the heat and stir in the just boiled cream with a wooden spoon. Be careful as it can spit. Leave off the heat for 5 minutes. Then put back on the hob and heat until 127°C. Once this temperature is achieved remove from the heat and stir in the butter – be careful as it bubbles up a fair amount. Leave to cool in the pan for 20 minutes.
When cool but still spreadable, pour over the peanut layer of the snickers bar and allow to set in the fridge. Use a knife to eek it over the peanut layer if you need to. When the caramel has set (give it at least an hour) melt the other half of the chocolate with 1 tbsp oil (as before) and pour over the caramel layer. Leave to set.
Once completely set use a knife to cut into squares/bars. You can dip the knife into hot water before cutting to achieve cleaner cuts.
So as you all know by now, I make a lot of treats and baked goods. Of course I don’t eat ALL of it. I wish I were one of those people who could eat whatever they like and remain whippet like. I haven’t resembled a whippet since 1995. However, every so often I make something that really gets under my skin. I then tend to give it teenage music treatment – you know, where you play a record to death upon buying it? These are one of those bakes that I can’t stop making. They are good… I can only apologise.
Grease and line a 30cm x 20cm tray with non-stick parchment that reaches up the sides. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the flour and cocoa and beat again. Press into the prepared tin using clingfilm on the top and a tin to get an even base, then chill for 1 hour. Whilst the shortbread is chilling, toast the pecans in a frying pan over a low heat until lightly browned. Pour onto a plate to cool.
Next make the caramel… first, choose a method.
Microwave method: Make the caramel mix the butter, sugar and salt in a microwave proof bowl and microwave on high until the butter has melted – about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the condensed milk, stir and microwave for a further 3 minutes. Stop half way through to stir well. Add the double cream, stir well and microwave for 30 seconds. Leave to cool a little.
Hob method: Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the salt and sugar and stir. Add the condensed milk, stir well and turn the heat up until the mixture bubbles. Keep stirring on a medium heat like this for 3 minutes. Add the cream, stir well and return to the heat for 1 minute, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat.
Scatter the pecans over the shortbread along with the chopped chocolate, then pour over about 600g of the caramel sauce – enough to cover the nuts completely and bake in a preheated oven at 180C/gas mark 4 for 25 – 30 minutes. The top of the caramel will bubble up and crisp, the caramel underneath will remain soft. (Keep the remaining caramel in a jar in the fridge and pour over ice cream or crumble).
Allow to cool and then chill the traybake in the fridge for 4 hours before cutting.
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When I worked in advertising one of my clients was a supermarket. So in March as Easter loomed we talked a lot about Christmas turkeys, mincemeat and of course what booze might be on offer come the festive season, and as school broke up in the summer we talked about back to school pencil cases and lunchbox treats. As for Christmas, well we stressed out about Paschal Lamb and marzipan apostles sitting atop Simnel cakes.
It was a strange existence. I was hungry a lot of the time though when actually offered a tin of Roses at Christmas time, my stomach turned a little. My internal seasonal menu-clock was shot to pieces. As Santa approached all I wanted was a cream egg. Wrong.
I’ve had a break from this for some years what with getting married, leaving advertising and having babies. Until this morning when QVC asked me to brain storm Spring and Summer recipe ideas for my Easter Sunday show. Looking out of my window at the dreary weather it’s taken some closely shut eyes and a delve into summers past to conjure up berry pavlovas, lady like cucumber sandwiches, garden party mini pizzas with goats cheese, vanilla cakes topped with white chocolate ganache and raspberries… and of course the summeriest of all summery flavours, elderflower – in a trifle no less.
Here’s a recipe for a rather stay-inside-at-coffee-mornings-and-eat-cakes-kind-of-weather. But any summery ideas all gratefully received – do leave a comment if you think of something.
2 tbsp Camp coffee essence/instant coffee made up with a bit of hot water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk
200g soft butter
400g icing sugar
200g of tinned caramel
12 pieces of dairy fudge
Pop the oven on to preheat to 170C/Gas 3. Make sure the rack is in the centre of the oven and then line a cupcake tray with cases. Beat the SR flour, ground almonds, 175g soft butter, castor sugar, eggs, 1 tbsp Camp coffee essence, vanilla extract and the milk until light and fluffy – 4 mins in a stand mixer, about 6 with a wooden spoon. Then divide equally between the cupcake cases and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden, slightly risen and a toothpick comes out of the centre cupcake clean. Leave to cool out of the tray, on a wire rack.
Make the icing by beating the soft butter with the icing sugar until very light and airy looking, like mousse flecked with air. This takes about 7 minutes in a stand mixer, longer with a handheld or wooden spoon. Then add the tinned caramel and Camp coffee essence, (both available in large supermarkets,) or you could make your own caramel if you like. Mix well and then pipe/spread onto your cooled cupcakes and top with dairy fudge. For piping tips I did a film with Lakeland ages ago that might be useful. You can see it here.
For those of you with deja-vu you’d be right in thinking these cupcakes are a the love child of these little chaps.
It was my birthday yesterday and I have the sore head to prove it. I’m a bit high maintenance when it comes to birthdays. I pretend I don’t care a jot and for years I didn’t even allow Facebook to announce the day of my birth. I told everyone it didn’t matter. I’ve been lying.
I care so much. I want cake. I want cards. I want well chosen presents. Yes, I do want to go out for dinner. And I want to go away for the weekend too. And I want a homemade card from my children. I want it all. I am a birthday brat.
And this year I got all of those things apart from the homemade smudged card from the kids, though given they spend all their time with me and are 2 and 4, I’m not sure when they were supposed to create a work of art without my seeing it. I’m fine about it, really I am. *Smiles the pained smile of a martyr.*
Anyway, here’s a lovely cupcake recipe, a revisit of an old faithful, making it a bit sexier. If coffee and walnut can be sexy that is?
1 tbsp Camp coffee essence/instant coffee made up with a bit of hot water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk
75g finely chopped walnuts
80g soft butter
160g icing sugar
250g of tinned caramel
12 walnut halves
Pop the oven on to preheat to 170C/Gas 3. Make sure the rack is in the centre of the oven and then line a cupcake tray with cases. Beat the SR flour, ground almonds, 175g soft butter, castor sugar, eggs, coffee essence, vanilla extract and the milk until light and fluffy – 4 mins in a stand mixer, about 6 with a wooden spoon. Add the chopped walnuts and beat in until well combined. Then divide equally between the cupcake cases and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden, slightly risen and a toothpick comes out of the centre cupcake clean. Leave to cool out of the tray, on a wire rack.
Make the icing by beating the 80g soft butter with the icing sugar until very light and airy looking, like mousse flecked with air. This takes about 7 minutes in a stand mixer, longer with a handheld or wooden spoon. Then add the tinned caramel, it’s available in large supermarkets, or you could make your own. Mix well and then pipe onto your cooled cupcakes and top with a walnut. For piping tips I did a film with Lakeland ages ago that might be useful. You can see it here.
What does love feel like? When I was 15 and fell in love for the first time with a thud and a clang it made me feel sky high. A heady combination akin to gas and air, red wine and altitude sickness. Food repelled me, so satiating was this new sensation. Concentration was not mine. I had face ache from smiling too much. I was of course the first person to discover this feeling and NOBODY understood.
And of course when he ditched me for an older girl who was altogether more exciting, with raven hair, a flat of her own and a beaten up denim jacket with untold stains that told hair raising stories, well I thought the very core of me was dropping through to my feet, never to be returned again. It hurt. So much. Physically. Ouch.
Thank goodness that pain was never to be repeated. The only good thing to have come from this experience? I am truly empathetic to heartbreak. Come those teenage years I will never, ever, ever tell my sons to ‘get a grip’ in the face of gut wrenching love sickness.
I offer you Love cupcakes. The crunch of the simple, pure chocolate, the softness of the sponge and the surprise caramel centre make these perfect for surprising the one you love. Just make sure they’re worthy of your affections. And beware of raven haired temptresses beginning with the letter S.
Chocolate topped vanilla cupcakes with secret caramel centres
140g self raising flour
35g ground almonds
175g castor sugar
175g baking margarine/butter
3 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Approx 60g caramel
100g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3 and check there’s a rack in the middle of the oven. Then beat the flour, almonds, sugar, marg/butter, eggs and vanilla together until light and creamy. Takes about 4 minutes in a stand mixer. More by hand with a wooden spoon. Divide between 12 cupcakes cases lining your tin and then bake in the centre of the oven until just starting to brown and when a toothpick comes out of the middle cupcake clean. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
When cool take an apple corer and remove the centres of the cakes, being careful not to go all the way down to the bottom. If you accidentally do remove the whole plug of cake then cut a bit off and poke it back into the cake hole. No one will know.
It’s so gloopy it may well get stuck on the top so help it along with a poke and a jiggle. And as for leftover caramel… use it to fill a victoria sponge. To make ice-cream sundaes. To make banoffee mini pavs. Or just eat. Or slather it on your hair as a conditioner. I don’t actually know if this last idea works but it might do.
Then melt your chocolate in the microwave or over boiling water, you know what kind of melter you are. Carefully spoon a teaspoon onto each cake, then a little more if the Love Cake can take it. Pop whatever decoration you have on the top and leave to set. Eat with love, with people you love.
This is the stuff of dreams. Sometimes, just sometimes, the 6 year old only child in me creeps back to the surface and whispers in my ear, not to cut the shortbread but to leave it in one block and eat it all myself, whilst pretending to be a giant. Make this for people you care deeply about. Or just yourself if it’s a selfish kind of a day.
– 250g soft salted butter
– 100g caster sugar
– 260g plain flour
– 90g cornflour
– 1 x 397g tin of caramel
– 200g white chocolate
– Malteasers, chocolate coins… do your worst
Very easy to make. Very easy to eat. Preheat your oven to 170C and line a 20cm x 20cm tin with sides at least 3cm high, with butter and greaseproof paper. (You can use a bigger tin but reduce the cooking time a little as the shortbread will be thinner and therefore will take a shorter time to cook.)
Take your soft butter and beat (in your stand mixer/with an electric mixer/by hand with a wooden spoon) until soft and creamy looking. Then add the sugar and beat again until all combined, light and fluffy. Add the flour and cornflour and beat until the mixtures comes together into clumps. Press into your prepared tin and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until lightly golden brown on the top. Don’t worry about opening the oven to check, shortbread doesn’t mind this at all.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack, in the tin. Once cool open your tin of caramel and pour over the top, using a spoon and knife to ease over the whole of the slab of shortbread. Leave to settle in the fridge. Melt your white chocolate very carefully in the microwave in 30 second bursts so as not to risk burning it. You can use the bain marie method instead if you prefer.
The best way to do this is not to pour in one place – pour it in sections so that you don’t disturb the set caramel. Use a teaspoon to push the chocolate gently over the caramel and then, whilst the chocolate is still molten, pop chocolate coins and Malteasers over the top, being careful to only pop them into ‘squared’ sections so that you can easily cut the slab of shortbread when completely cool and not have to saw a Malteaser or coin in half. Do clean the knife after each cut as it makes for cleaner looking slices.
We are all poorly. Coughing and spluttering and retching. The lurgy has struck. So this will be short.
So Christmas day is nearly here (well according to The Early Learning Centre there are 11 more sleeps.) I’m serving cherry and pecan pudding rather than Christmas pudding but for the traditionalists feel the need to offer something brandied to accompany it. Not being a fan of brandy butter (is that just me?) I thought a nice brandied ice-cream might go down a treat. The nutmeg in this recipe is very subtle – this isn’t a highly spiced or boozy ice cream, more a hint of the festive season in a frozen cream format. Is also very good for lurgy induced sore throats. And you don’t even need an ice cream maker!
a handful of raisins
2 tbsp brandy
3 egg yolks, lightly whisked
100g sugar (any will do)
350mls double cream
a scant grating of nutmeg
Right, first thing’s first, take the raisins and put into a saucepan with the brandy. Heat over a medium flame for about 5 mins, stirring until all the brandy is absorbed or thereabouts. You can then set this saucepan aside – you can even do this the day before and leave overnight.
Next, put the sugar in another saucepan with 1 tbsp cold water and heat until you have a caramel coloured syrup – be careful not to let it burn but you do need to be relatively fearless. Once it looks suitably autumnal in colour – a kind of deep red, add 3 tbsp boiling water and then cover the pan and leave on a medium heat for about 15 mins.
Take off the heat and pour, a dribble at a time, into the egg yolks. Whisk as you go. Then, keep on whisking until it’s all light and frothy and pop into the freezer for 30 mins. Leave the whisk in the bowl and give it a good stir every 10 or so minutes. It may have separated in the cold so this helps with that little issue.
In the meantime whisk the double cream until it forms peaks. Top tip for not getting cream all over your kitchen is to use an electric hand held mixer and do it in a tall mixing jug. After the half hour of freezing the caramel and egg yolks is up, fold in the whipped cream, add the raisins and also grate in a little nutmeg. Mix with a metal spoon carefully and pop into a lidded container and re-freeze.
Every hour or so for about 5 hours take a fork to the mixture and stir, breaking up the ice particles. You can do this more often if you remember. Sounds like a faff but when you taste it all that forking will be forgotten. Mr B even said ‘remind me why we have ever bought ice-cream?’ upon tasting this little creation. If only I’d known ice cream was this easy to make earlier.
I’m a mum of 3 boys, a cookbook writer and also a finalist on the 2011 Great British Bake Off.
I’ve decided to record the recipes I use, partly to save them somewhere and partly in case someone else might like to use them...
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